US airborne operation kills one in government-controlled area of Syria

Monitoring group says American operation is the first of its kind in regime-held areas of the war-torn country

Illustrative: American soldiers during an exercise in the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, December 8, 2021. .(AP/Baderkhan Ahmad)
Illustrative: American soldiers during an exercise in the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, December 8, 2021. .(AP/Baderkhan Ahmad)

DAMASCUS, Syria — A US airborne operation involving multiple helicopters left one person dead in a government-controlled area of Syria’s northeast, Syrian state TV reported Thursday.

It is the first such operation in regime-controlled areas, the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said.

“US occupation forces carried out a landing operation using several helicopters in the village of Muluk Saray in the southern countryside of Qamishli and killed one person,” Syria’s state broadcaster said, without elaborating.

The US armed forces’ Central Command (CENTCOM) said it currently has “no information to provide.”

The village targeted by the operation lies 17 kilometers (10 miles) south of the city of Qamishli and is controlled by Syrian regime forces, according to the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights and AFP correspondents.

“It is the first time” that US forces conduct such an operation in regime-held areas, the Observatory said, without identifying the victim.

Several other people were captured, the monitor said, without providing a figure.

A resident of the village said that three US helicopters carrying troops had landed overnight.

US forces raided a house, killing one person and taking several others captive, the resident told AFP on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“They used loud speakers to call on residents to stay indoors” during the operation, he said.

The resident said the victim is a little-known Syrian from Hassakeh province, whom he named as Abu Hayel.

Washington is part of a US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in Syria.

In July, the Pentagon said it killed Syria’s top IS jihadist in a drone strike in the northern part of the country. CENTCOM said he had been “one of the top five” leaders of Islamic State overall.

The July strike came five months after a nighttime US raid in the town of Atme, which led to the death of the overall Islamic State leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi. US officials said Qurashi died when he detonated a bomb to avoid capture.

After losing their last territory following a military onslaught backed by the US-led coalition in March 2019, the remnants of IS in Syria mostly retreated into desert hideouts.

They have since used such hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops while continuing to mount attacks in Iraq.

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