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US kills two Islamic State leaders in airstrike after rare Syria ground raid

American military says terror group’s No. 2 in Syria slain along with second senior member, hours after troops take out insurgent in Qamishli; Russian deconfliction line not used

In this file photo taken on December 26, 2021 a US AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies above US soldiers patrolling along the frontlines between areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed fighters near the village of Dardara in the countryside of Tal Tamr in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province. (Delil souleiman / AFP)
In this file photo taken on December 26, 2021 a US AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies above US soldiers patrolling along the frontlines between areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed fighters near the village of Dardara in the countryside of Tal Tamr in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province. (Delil souleiman / AFP)

WASHINGTON — US forces killed three senior Islamic State leaders in two separate military operations in Syria Thursday, including a rare ground raid in a portion of the northeast that is controlled by the Syrian regime, US officials said.

According to officials, US special operations forces conducted a raid near the village of Qamishli, killing IS insurgent Rakkan Wahid al Shamman, wounding another and capturing two others.

Later Thursday, the US conducted an airstrike in northern Syria, killing Abu Ala, the No. 2 Islamic State leader in Syria, and Abu Mu’ad al Qahtani, another IS leader, officials said.

A US official said a small number of US troops were on the ground near Qamishli for less than an hour to conduct the ground raid. The US doesn’t often do missions on territory that is under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the raid.

In a statement, US Central Command said al Shamman was known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters in support of Islamic State operations. According to the statement, no civilians or US troops or were killed or injured in the raid.

Additional information about the airstrike was not provided.

The US continues to have about 900 forces in Syria to advise and assist Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.

One US official said that, for the first time in a long time, the US did not use its deconfliction phone line with Russia to notify them of the US troop raid and presence there.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details, said the lack of deconfliction was more the result of operational security and not a reaction to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The US and Russia have used the deconfliction line to avoid any possible accidents or incidents when US forces are in the northeastern region of Syria where Russian forces also operate.

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