4 US service members wounded in helicopter raid that killed IS leader in Syria

A service dog also was injured when the target triggered an explosion.

February 17, 2023, 2:21 PM

Four U.S. service members were wounded by an explosion during a helicopter raid in northeast Syria on Thursday night.

A senior Islamic State leader who was killed in the mission set off the explosion, officials said.

"Last night, during a partnered U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces helicopter raid in northeastern Syria, an explosion on target resulted in four U.S. service members and one working dog wounded," said a statement from U.S. Central Command.

"The U.S. service members and working dog are receiving treatment in a U.S. medical facility in Iraq," the statement said.

The IS leader who was targeted in the raid and who was killed was identified as Hamza al-Homsi who was described by CENTCOM as overseeing the group’s terrorist network in eastern Syria.

PHOTO: In this file photo from 2019, A helicopter takes off from a US military base at an undisclosed location in eastern Syria, Nov. 11, 2019.
In this file photo from 2019, A helicopter takes off from a US military base at an undisclosed location in eastern Syria, Nov. 11, 2019.
Darko Bandic/AP, FILE

"The injuries to the US troops and working dog result from Hamza al-Homsi triggering an explosion on the target near Deir ez-zor, Syria," said Col. Joe Buccino, the CENTCOM spokesman said.

"No other ISIS fighters were killed or captured on this target, however, a separate ISIS raid that same night resulted in the death of an ISIS assassination cell leader," Buccino said. No civilians or Syrian Kurdish partner forces were injured in the incident according to Buccino.

Three of the service members are described as being in stable condition with the fourth already having returned to duty according to a U.S. official.

The condition of the working dog is also described as being stable, according to the official.

There are about 900 U.S. troops operating in northeastern Syria in areas controlled by Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Force, and approximately 2,500 American troops still in Iraq.

The mission of the American troops in both countries remains partnering with local forces to counter the lingering threat posed by IS and prevent the group's resurgence.

The terror group was militarily defeated in Syria in 2019 and since then, its leaders have gone into hiding to prevent being targeted by U.S. forces.

However, fighters maintain a low-level insurgency in Iraq and Syria, and the group continues to inspire followers in the West to commit violent attacks.

In January, IS mounted its largest operation since its military defeat, as hundreds of fighters attempted to free thousands of terrorist fighters detained at a prison in Hasakah in northeast Syria.

After 10 days of heavy fighting, U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, helped by U.S. airstrikes, were able to retake the prison, though it is believed that several hundred IS prisoners were able to flee.

Kurdish forces claimed that 374 IS fighters had been killed during the attempted prison break.

But the group's operations in Syria suffered a major blow a month later in February, 2022 when the group's top leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi aka Haji Abdullah, was killed during a raid in northwest Syria carried out by U.S. special operations forces.

The IS leader died when he detonated a suicide vest that killed him as well as other family members as U.S. troops approached.

Just months later in May, his successor Maher al-Agal was killed in a drone strike in northwestern Syria.

U.S. special operations forces typically carry out the high-risk missions in Syria targeting IS leaders in an effort to gather more intelligence on the group's operations.

That includes to areas in far northwestern areas of Syria not controlled by the Syrian government where IS leaders have sought refuge.

Aside from IS, U.S. forces in Syria also face threats posed by Iranian-backed groups that have carried out rocket and drone attacks on U.S. bases.

Earlier this week U.S. forces shot down an Iranian-made drone that was attempting to carry out a reconnaissance above a U.S. patrol base in northeast Syria."

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