The United States military has declared that it carried out a helicopter operation in eastern Syria on Saturday, resulting in the apprehension of a top official associated with ISIS. In a press release issued by the US Central Command (CENTCOM), it was revealed that the operation involved US forces collaborating with the Syrian Democratic Forces to capture an ISIS member identified as Batar. The CENTCOM added that Batar had been "involved in planning attacks on SDF-guarded detention centers and manufacturing improvised explosive devices".
On the morning of 18 Feb, US and SDF forces conducted a helicopter raid in eastern Syria, capturing an ISIS official. pic.twitter.com/OMprEZmdCX— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 18, 2023
The statement added that there were no casualties or injuries reported among civilians, Syrian troops, or US personnel. However, CENTCOM released another statement following the initial one, indicating that coalition forces had been attacked by rockets in northeast Syria on the same day, but fortunately, no injuries were reported. This news arrives after CENTCOM announced that four US service members were wounded in a separate raid that killed a senior ISIS leader.
Hamza al-Homsi, a senior leader of the Islamic State, was killed during that helicopter raid in eastern Syria. As per a statement by CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino to Fox News Digital, al-Homsi was in charge of the group's deadly terrorist network in the region. During the raid, four US service members and a working dog were injured and are currently receiving medical treatment at a US facility in Iraq, according to the same CENTCOM statement. Sinam Mohamad, the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council to the United States, has expressed her belief that the US presence in northeastern Syria remains crucial to defeating the ISIS threat.
ISIS (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Daesh) emerged in Syria in 2013 as a splinter group from al-Qaeda in Iraq. Its goal was to establish a caliphate in the Middle East and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law on the territories it controlled. ISIS quickly gained control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq, including the cities of Raqqa, Mosul, and Fallujah. Its tactics were brutal, with the group carrying out public executions, beheadings, and crucifixions of those who opposed it. ISIS also generated significant revenue through extortion, looting, and the sale of oil and antiquities.
The group's rise to power was facilitated by the ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in 2011. ISIS took advantage of the power vacuum created by the conflict to establish its presence in Syria. It also received funding and support from wealthy individuals and extremist groups in the Gulf states. However, in 2014, a US-led coalition was formed to fight ISIS, and in 2015, the coalition launched a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. In addition, Syrian government forces and their allies, including Russia, also fought against ISIS in Syria.
Over the years, ISIS gradually lost territory in both Syria and Iraq. Raqqa, the group's de facto capital, was liberated by a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters in 2017. In the same year, Iraqi forces retook Mosul, and in 2018, Syrian government forces regained control of most of the territory formerly held by ISIS. Despite the group's loss of territory, ISIS remains a threat in Syria and continues to carry out sporadic attacks against government and civilian targets. The group also maintains a presence in Iraq and has spread its operations to other parts of the world, including Africa and Asia.