Two drone strikes by the United States reportedly first killed an al-Qaeda leader, then targeted one of the senior Islamic State (ISIS) militants in territories under Turkish control in northern Syria both within less than a week in late October.
The first strike was carried out on 22 October in the vicinity of Suluk, a town within the Tell Abyad District of Raqqa Governorate in Syria, reportedly killing senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar. A spokesperson for US Central Command indicated that the strike was conducted using an MQ-9 aircraft.
“Al-Qaeda continues to present a threat to America and our allies, and uses Syria as a safe haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations,” Major John Rigsbee said. “It also uses Syria as a base for threats reaching into Syria, Iraq and beyond. The removal of this al-Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organisation’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians.”
Syria’s northern town of Suluk was captured by Turkey and its proxy the Syrian National Army in the Turkish offensive in October 2019, and remains under Turkish control.
On 25 October, another US drone strike was conducted targeting a ISIS leader, this time near Serê Kaniyê (Ras Al-Ayn), another territory under Turkish control.
The head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media centre Farhad Shami reported the strike on Twitter.
“Drones target with an air strike the headquarters of the terrorist Sabahi Al-Ibrahim Al-Musleh (“Abu Hamza Al-Shuhail”) in the village of Al-Adwaniyah in the countryside of Serê Kaniyê / Ras Al-Ain. He is one of the most important leaders of ISIS in the collapsed caliphate,” he wrote.