| 1 October 2022, Saturday |

US-Led Raid in Syria Targets Qaeda Militants

A US-led coalition raid on Thursday targeted a suspected al Qaeda-affiliated militants in the northern Syrian town of Atmeh, resulting in several civilian casualties, said residents and sources.

One resident said at least 12 people were killed in the raid that took place around midnight in a densely populated area near the border with Turkey, where tens of thousands of displaced Syrians live in makeshift camps or overcrowded housing.

There was no immediate reports of any militant being killed, but residents said they heard heavy gunfire during the operation, indicating resistance to the raid.

Charles Lister, senior fellow with the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said he had spoken to residents who said the operation lasted more than two hours, Reuters reported.

“Clearly they wanted whoever it was alive,” Lister said.

“This looks like the biggest of this type of operation” since the Baghdadi raid, he said.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a US special operations raid in northwest Syria in 2019.

Residents and opposition sources said several helicopters landed near Atmeh in the province of Idlib, the last big enclave held by militants fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and explosions were heard near the home of a foreign jihadist.

The militant who was the suspected targeted was with his family at the time of the raid, said an opposition official who declined to be named.

One resident said several people were killed in the raid, while another said rescuers pulled out at least 12 bodies from the rubble of a multi-storey building, including children and women.

Witnesses said the raid had ended as aircraft believed to be choppers had left the site, but unidentified reconnaissance planes were still hovering in the area.

The opposition official said security from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which controls parts of northwest Syria, hurried to the location after the raid.

The northwest of Syria – Idlib province and a belt of territory around it – is mostly held by Hyat Tahrir al-Sham, the former Nusra Front, which was part of al Qaeda until 2016.

For years, the US military has launched mostly drones to kill top al-Qaeda operatives in northern Syria, where the militant group became active during Syria’s over decade-long civil war.

US-led coalition operations against remnants of ISIS seeper cells are more frequent in northeast Syria held by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat