US Special Operations Forces kill Islamic State commander in Syrian raid

US Special Operations Forces killed an Islamic State military and financial leader and captured his wife during a raid in eastern Syria last night, the US military confirmed today.

The operation, which included airstrikes followed by an air assault conducted by special operations troops, was designed to capture Abu Sayyaf, a senior leader in the Islamic State, and his wife, Umm Sayyaf.

The raid took place “in al-Amr,” or the Al Omar oil field in Deir al Zour province in eastern Syria, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement released by the US military. The oil field is under the control of the Islamic State, which uses the extracted resources to fund its operations in Iraq and Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 19 Islamic State fighters were killed “due to carrying out airstrikes by warplanes on IS [Islamic State] positions in the oilfield.” A “paratrooper landing followed the strikes.”

“Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged US forces,” according to Carter’s statement. A US official told told The Long War Journal that communications equipment, a computer, and other documents were seized during the raid.

No US troops were killed or wounded, Carter noted.

Abu Sayyaf was “involved in ISIL’s military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil, gas, and financial operations as well,” Carter said, referring to the Islamic State by its outdated acronym. Abu Sayyaf was also known as Abu Muhammad al Iraqi, a US military official told The Long War Journal.

Umm Sayyaf was also a suspected member of the Islamic State and “may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yazidi woman rescued last night.” The Islamic State places great importance on recruiting women and then marrying them off to jihadists. Additionally, the group often enslaves women captured during the fighting in Iraq and Syria. [See LWJ reports, The oppression of women and girls in the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’, Islamic State al-Khans’aa Brigade publishes manifesto for women, and Islamic State’s female jihadists use social media to lure women recruits.]

Second special operations raid in Syria in the past year

Last night’s raid is just the second US special operations mission using ground forces that has been reported in Syria in the past year. President Barack Obama has vowed not to deploy combat forces on the ground to help defeat the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria.

In August 2014, two squads of Army Delta Force troops along with accompanying air support attempted to rescue American journalist James Foley, who was being held inside Syria by the Islamic State. Foley was not at the target site, and he was later beheaded by his captors.

The US has launched at least one other special operations raid in Syria since 2008. In October 2008, special operations forces killed Abu Ghadiya, a senior al Qaeda leader who had been in charge of the group’s Syrian network since 2005, and several aides during an operation in Albu Kamal. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has subsequently named a training camp after Abu Ghadiya.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

25 Comments

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Couldn’t help but notice the oft used phrase “well coordinated attack” when describing terrorists’ assaults was not used in this story. Well, this my friends was a well coordinated attack. It didn’t involve the stupid, self-defeating use of a “suicide” bomber. Quite the opposite, as there were no casualties and no deaths for the “infidels.” That’s the way it is done.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    If the Delta team had captured Abu Sayyaf, where would we hold him? Guantanamo would not be permitted under Obama’s delusional policies. Perhaps Camp David or possibly Bowe Bergdahl’s parents house. Would the Monty Python “comfy chair” be used during questioning rather than harsh integration.

    This raid once again demonstrated the skills and bravery of our armed forces. Unfortunately. the political cowardice of the commander in chief would negate any benefits from the seizure. “Mr President, Sayyaf says that accepting your invitation to play yet another round of golf would be the equivalent of torture.”

    • Arjuna says:

      Soufan says give him the comfy chair, and Obama says YES, we can.

    • James says:

      @Frank,

      Frank, with all due respect to your comments, the only good terrorist is a dead terrorist. There can be no escape (or ‘early release’) from the grave. Why let them serve (like Siddiqi) as hostage bait?

      These scum (whether it be Baghdoggy or any of the other Daesh dogs, including Pukin’s rejects [i.e., the Chechnyens]) just need to be eliminated. May it be scrawled on their gravemarkers (if they even get one): “GONE AND FORGOTTEN ! ! !”.

    • Jason says:

      @ Frank

      Do you think these types of operation are done without POTUS approval or direction? U.S. Forces don’t just conduct operations in other countries without prior approval. It doesn’t matter how it is reported in the news. There are people behind the scenes that you will never hear about who are acting on the direction of the POTUS via their respective agencies. Foreign Policy is not black or white and far too complex for some Americans to understand but yet they reduce it to sarcastic comments like these. Oh yeah, we don’t need to bring these guys back to the US or Guantanamo to get the information we need.

      The raid was televised so quickly because the Arab news network were covering almost immediately because of eye witnesses.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    If we had captured Abu Sayyaf, where would he be held for interrogation? Guantanamo is closed to new arrivals under Obama’s delusional policies. Perhaps Camp David or more likely, Bowe Bergdahl’s parent house in Idaho. Would the interrogators be limited to the use Month Python’s “soft comfy chair” or would they be allowed to use the far harsher recordings of Obama’a “We don’t torture” speeches to extract information. Or, would Sayyaf avoid arduous interrogation by agreeing that a little know video inspired the protestors to attack our Benghazi consulate and CIA annex?

    Finally, the raid seized information on IS operations, why did we announce Friday’s raid so quickly?

  • Dannyboy666 says:

    USA USA USA …

  • gitsum says:

    YEAH! Well done Delta, I’ll tip a beer in your honor! Now go git sum more!

  • Its unfortunate our Commander in Chief has not committed to a full fledged campaign against ISIS which this shows could decimated ISIS.

    Either get the hell out of the middle east or fully commit – tired of the US going half-way. Would never have defeated Japan and Germany with this strategy. Its been like this since Korea with all our Presidents

    If we commit one troop, its with a declaration of war voted by House & Senate and we go to win – anything less, we stay out period.

    • Dan says:

      There’s a lot more going on than defeating IS.

      By not “decimating” IS – which would be extremely difficult anyway – it forces regional actors to take a more assertive role. This in turn allows the US to slightly disengage from the region, and serves to create a semblance of rebalancing the power structure in the Middle East.

      This is just a quick roll-up of what is really going on. But it explains why we – the West – are really only providing a token effort to the fight against IS (at the moment).

  • JT says:

    Good to hear that the efforts behind the scenes are indeed ongoing, and it is very good to hear of the recent results. Perhaps the computer and documents will be at least as valuable as the hit itself.

  • jeff gilliland says:

    We need a lot more of this!!!! way to go gentleman

  • Daniel says:

    Awesome! While all attention was on the SAA, JAN, ISIS, FSA etc, out of nowhere comes America who singlehandedly steals the show by taking out an important Daesh leader! Bravo! Now let’s see our government keep up the heat.

  • James says:

    I will suggest that one very effective way to demoralize ISIS would involve not having to fire a single shot. That would be to deprive them of the importation of women for forced marriages. This action could be gotten through a UN Security Council resolution. Only allow women (and children) to exit the contested areas (into Jordan or Turkey as the case may be).

    • Arjuna says:

      Love that plan. Deny them their deluded camp followers. That (no females in the Caliphate) will certainly put a damper on recruitment. Give any other females who want to leave Most Favoured Refugee status too.

      • James says:

        @Arjuna

        Arjuna, thanks for your comments. Seriously, if they become desperado enough, just maybe they’ll start sawing each other’s heads off. It would also help if the Iraqis would (if need be) forcefully evacuate any civilians from the contested areas.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I remembered in one of the IS videos, Jihadi John said that he was looking forward to seeing western coalition troops in Syria, so that he and his mates could slaughter them. Now he got his wish, but instead of slaughtering them, his friends instead are now getting slaughtered by US soldiers, with only a minimum amount of troops on land. Looking forward to seeing more of these US operations behind enemy lines !!

  • JamesGorton says:

    The Politics ranted about rather than the Positive action by the President on down proves why we do not function well as a Society anymore. Everyone involved deserves Kudos! Save your opinion for the voting booth and stick to facts. Go on Fox, or MSNBC if you wish to spout rather than discuss intelligently please,

  • Jon says:

    The only way to deal with ISIS is to hunt every last one of them down and kill them all! A big thank you to our troops who kill ISIS in the middle east so we the American people can stay safe back home.

    • Christopher says:

      We cant kill everyone of them ! All we can do is ” Mow ” the damn grass !!! Meaning kill off tons then others spring back up its not cool its not banners out peace treaty or they sign a surrender its one dies someone takes there place and other then that cut off money supplies but like al qaeda and taliban hezbollah muslim brother hood they sell drugs ect to collect money for wespons ect sux

  • Brian says:

    Before the raid had anyone ever hear of this “key leader” in any news article or government release?

    It is a bit suspicious to me that this Abu sayyaf is so important ant this is the first I have heard of him.

    • Ron Mn says:

      He has been spoken of many times in the previous year… if you have not heard of him, that is a comment on the fact you have not paid attention…. no harm, most Americans have not been.

      • Brian says:

        Ron Mn, I’m genuinely interested. Do you have any links to any articles referencing an Abu Sayyaf in Iraq/Syria, prior to this raid?

  • Jeff Hopper says:

    Base on single in the first inning .

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis