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US kills ISIS commander in eastern Syria

The strike happened only hours after the MQ-9 Reaper drone that carried it out was harassed by Russian jets.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
MQ-9 Reaper
FILE: A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone firing a AGM-114 Hellfire missile. (U.S. Air Force photo)

United States Central Command announced today that it killed ISIS commander Usamah al-Muhajir in an airstrike on Friday, July 7.

CENTCOM said that it used a drone to target al-Muhajir, described only as a commander for the militant group in Syria’s east. CENTCOM said that it does not appear that any civilians were harmed in the attack, but it is still assessing the aftermath.

The U.S. military did not offer additional details on the mission, nor did it say how it confirmed the strike killed al-Muhajir.

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“We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of CENTCOM, said in a statement. “ISIS remains a threat, not only to the region but well beyond.”

The operation was carried out using an MQ-9 Reaper drone. Earlier on Friday, the United States claimed Russia fighter jets flew close to the same Reaper drone and “harassed” it for two hours. A similar incident happened on Wednesday. The U.S. Air Force said in a statement that “[t]hese events represent a new level of unprofessional and unsafe action by Russian air forces operating in Syria.”

The French military has also said that two of its fighter jets were forced to maneuver out of the way of a Russian Su-35 at the Iraq-Syria border on Thursday in order to avoid an “accident.”

The U.S.-backed coalition pushed ISIS out of its last base in Baghouz, Syria in March 2019 but in the four years since the group has remained active in Syria and Iraq, with several thousand fighters still under its banner. The United States has launched both air strikes and raids on ISIS commanders since. Two of the group’s top leaders were killed in 2022, one in a fight with American forces, one in a fight with the Free Syrian Army. This year the United States has conducted dozens of missions targeting leaders and fighters, killing several. Several have been in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.

The United States currently has approximately 900 service members in Syria.

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