Senior ISIS Leader in Syria Killed by Drone Strike, US Says

US Central Command said Maher al Agal had been killed in an extensively planned strike. It comes right before Joe Biden is due to visit the Middle East.
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US backed Syrian Democratic Forces soldiers in Syria (file image). PHOTO: AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahma, File

The US announced it had killed another senior ISIS leader in Syria by a drone strike on Tuesday, two months after the terror group’s latest leader was arrested in Turkey. 

The statement put out by the US Central Command said the strike killed Maher al Agal and his associate in northwestern Syria. 

The statement from the Pentagon claimed Agal was one of the “top five ISIS leaders” and the group’s leader in Syria. 

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“A senior ISIS official closely associated with Maher was seriously injured during the strike. Extensive planning went into this operation to ensure its successful execution. An initial review indicates there were no civilian casualties,” the statement said. 

Most reports on Agal name him as an intelligence officer rather than a very figure in ISIS as the US claimed on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden is set to visit the Middle East this week. 

Agal was last mentioned when a member of his family Azzo Halaf Agal was arrested in January 2021 in a series of arrest waves targeting ISIS members in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep. 

The Turkish authorities linked Agal – nicknamed Abu Bera – to two deadly attacks, including the suicide bombing in Suruç in 2015, which killed 34 people. The other in January 2016 in Istanbul’s tourist hub of Sultanahmet killed 13 people. 

A series of ISIS’s top brass has been hunted down in targeted killings and arrests in a crackdown on the organisation that once controlled a large swathe of land in Syria and Iraq. 

Earlier in May, the alleged new appointed caliph was arrested in Istanbul in an operation carried out by Turkish police. ISIS’s leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi was killed by a US raid in Syria in February.

He in turn had only been in the job for a relatively short time, after ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who was for a time the world’s most wanted man – died in a raid in 2019.

“The removal of these ISIS leaders will disrupt the terrorist organisation’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks.” Said a CENTCOM spokesperson, Col. Joe Buccino. 

“ISIS continues to represent a threat to the US and partners in the region,” he added.