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Two ISIL rebels killed in US helicopter attack in Syria: CENTCOM

US Central Command announces the assassination less than two weeks after ISIL announced their leader had been killed in battle.

US forces killed two members of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in eastern Syria in a helicopter strike, the US military said in a statement on Sunday without specifying the location of the overnight operation.

Forces “conducted a successful helicopter raid into eastern Syria at 2:57 a.m. (2357 GMT)… killing two ISIS officers,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for ISIL.

He stated that there were no civilian casualties in his initial assessments of the operation.

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One of those killed was identified by his first name, “Anas,” the CENTCOM statement said, adding that he was involved in the group’s deadly “conspiracy and facilitation operations” in eastern Syria.

The assassination comes less than two weeks after ISIL announced that its leader Abu Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had been killed in battle. The United States said al-Qurayshi was killed in an operation by rebel forces in the southern city of Deraa in October.

Little was known about Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who took over leadership of the group after the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi, his predecessor, in a February US raid in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

Al-Qurayshi is believed to be a nom de guerre that has been adopted by various ISIL leaders.

The ISIL group, which captured swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014, was defeated by a US-led international military coalition. The armed group lost its last stronghold in 2019, but ISIL sleeper cells continue to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq.

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ISIS [ISIL] continues to pose a threat to the security and stability of the region,” Joe Buccino, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said in the statement.

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“The death of these ISIS [ISIL] officials will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to plot and carry out further destabilizing attacks in the Middle East.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it was the “highest-profile” anti-ISIL operation for at least three weeks. He added that Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) troops were also involved in the raid, but Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the information.

There are some 900 US forces in Syria supporting the SDF forces as part of the international coalition fighting ISIL remnants. They have frequently targeted ISIL fighters, mainly in Kurdish-controlled parts of north-eastern Syria.

Turkish operations in northern Syria against SDF forces have endangered US personnel and threatened to destabilize the situation in Syria.

US troops and SDF fighters have resumed joint patrols in northeastern Syria after a temporary halt following Turkish strikes on the Syrian border.

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Turkey blamed the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which make up the bulk of the SDF, for the November 13 shelling of Istanbul that left six dead.

Ankara views the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody armed rebellion in the southeast of the country.

The PKK is designated as a “terrorist” organization by Turkey, as well as by its NATO allies, the US and the European Union.

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