The US military announced on Friday the killing of a senior al-Qaeda leader in a drone strike in Raqqa countryside, northwest Syria.
“A US airstrike today in northwest Syria killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar,” said Central Command spokesman Army Major John Rigsbee in a statement.
The strike was carried out in the Suluk region, northern Syria, which is under Turkey’s control.
There were no known casualties from the strike, Rigsbee said, adding it was conducted using an MQ-9 “Reaper” aircraft.
“Al-Qaeda continues to present a threat to the US and our allies,” he indicated, adding that the organization uses Syria as a haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations.
“The removal of this al-Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks,” he said.
Matar was a member of the Guardians of Religion Organization, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that former al-Nusra Front leader, Matar, was killed in an airstrike in the al-Raqqa countryside.
It wondered why such figures would reside in areas under Turkey’s control in Syria.
Last July, the US Treasury announced new sanctions on several Syrian entities, including the “Ahrar al-Sharqiya” faction, its leader Abu Hatem Shaqra, and his cousin Abu Jaafar Shaqra.
In September, the Pentagon said it killed senior al-Qaeda leader Salim Abu Ahmed in an airstrike near Idlib.
According to Centcom, he had been responsible for “planning, funding, and approving trans-regional al-Qaeda attacks.”
Rigsbee did not specify whether the strike that killed Matar was in response to Wednesday’s attack on the al-Tanf military base in southeastern Syria near the borders with Iraq and Jordan.
On Wednesday, SOHR reported that several blasts were heard from the Al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan.
“Explosions resounded from the Al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition,” fighting ISIS, the Observatory said.
According to the monitor, a “drone attack” was responsible for the blasts, adding that it is still unknown whether ISIS or the Iranian militias are behind it.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, it reported.
The al-Tanf base in southern Syria was set up in 2016 as part of the fight against the ISIS terrorist group.
Syria and its allies have repeatedly said US troops had no reason to be there.
Iran-backed forces are deployed in the vicinity of the desert outpost, which sits on the strategically significant Baghdad-Damascus highway.
SOURCE: Asharq Al-Awsat