By Debbie Gregory.
U.S. Special Operations forces killed a key ISIS commander during a daring raid in eastern Syria, securing intelligence on how the terror organization operates, communicates and earns money, U.S. government officials said. The battle left about a dozen Islamic State militants dead, including the commandos’ target: a man known as Abu Sayyaf, a militant leader who helped spearhead the group’s lucrative black market oil, gas and financial operations, the senior official said.
The soldiers grabbed Abu Sayyaf’s wife and a cache of the militants’ laptops, cellphones and other materials before returning to a military base in Iraq, according to the Pentagon account.
Sayyaf, a Tunisian militant, was one of ISIS’s top financiers, with likely access to the group’s contacts with banks, donors, Turkish and Lebanese business interests as well as links to criminal and smuggling networks. Thousands of Tunisian militants are said to have joined Islamic State in Syria, though Islamic State’s leadership has generally been viewed as being dominated by Iraqis, both religious militants and former commanders in the Iraqi armed forces of Saddam Hussein.
The ground operation was led by the Army’s Delta Force. They entered the target area on Blackhawk helicopters and V-22 aircraft, a U.S. official familiar with the operation said. ISIS fighters defended the multistory building from inside and outside positions.
Abu Sayyaf was killed as he “tried to engage” U.S. troops, the official said.
What may be most significant about the operation is that it was a targeted U.S. strike, featuring ground troops in Syria’s eastern Dair Alzour province, an Islamic State bastion since the group overran large portions of eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq in 2014.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he had ordered the raid at the direction of President Barack Obama. All the U.S. troops involved returned safely.
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Military Connection: Key ISIS Figure Killed in Syria: By Debbie Gregory