MON 18 - 2 - 2019
Dec 4, 2018
The Daily Star
Coalition airstrike kills Daesh commander in Syria
BEIRUT: A senior Daesh (ISIS) commander responsible for a series of gruesome beheadings of Western hostages was killed in an airstrike, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said.
“Coalition forces conducted precision strikes against a number of #ISIS leaders in southeast Syria. Those targeted included Abu al-Umarayn, responsible for the murder of several ISIS prisoners, including American citizen Peter Kassig,” Washington’s envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh Brett McGurk said in a tweet late Sunday.
Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement Monday that the strikes targeted the militants in the Badiya desert in Syria, one of the militants’ last remaining pockets of control in Syria, adding that Umarayn had given indications of posing an imminent threat to coalition forces fighting militants in the area.
Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was 26 at the time of his death. He was brutally decapitated alongside other Daesh hostages in November 2014.
The mass execution was shown in a video released by the group.
Kassig had founded a humanitarian organization in 2012 that provided aid to refugees in Syria and Lebanon. He was captured a year later by Daesh when he was on his way to Deir al-Zor to deliver supplies. He took the name Abdel-Rahman after converting to Islam.
Before Kassig’s death, his life had been threatened in an earlier video showing the beheading of another aid worker, Briton Alan Henning.
Kassig’s mother Paula reportedly reached out directly to Daesh militants to plead for her son’s life.
Damascus has earlier accused the coalition of launching missiles against Syrian army positions, according to the official SANA news agency. “The American coalition forces launched around 8 p.m. this evening several missiles against some positions of our forces in the Ghorab mountains south of Sukhna,” causing only “damage to equipment,” SANA said, citing a military source.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, coalition forces positioned in the Al-Tanf region fired “more than 14 missiles” at a Syrian army convoy as it was passing through the desert in the far east of Homs province.
The U.S. generally uses this base to launch its strikes against Daesh.
It has also been used to train Syrian Kurdish fighters who are battling the militants in eastern Syria.
The international coalition intervened in Syria and Iraq in 2014 to fight the spread of Daesh, after it had taken control of vast swaths of territory straddling the two countries.
Kurdish officials meanwhile said Russian Foreign Minister’s Sergey Lavrov’s comments about the situation in eastern Syria were “suspicious” and “a cause for concern.”
A day earlier, Lavrov had said the presence of U.S. forces in eastern Syria were “illegitimate” and violating what he said were international commitments to Syria’s territorial integrity.
“This is a very dangerous game, taking into account that the Kurdish issue is vital in a whole number of regional states [in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey],” Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiya 1 TV channel, according local media reports.
The Syrian Democratic Council said in a statement that the Kurdish issue was a national issue for Syria and must be resolved in accordance with international conventions.
“We reject such statements, which only contribute to stir up unrest and undermine the stability of the region.”
The U.S.-led coalition’s support for Kurdish forces in eastern Syria, which they say is part of their anti-Daesh campaign, is bitterly opposed by NATO-ally Turkey. Earlier this year, Turkish forces entered Syria as part of “Operation Olive Branch,” laying siege on Afrin and forcing out Kurdish fighters from their stronghold along Turkey’s border.
Kurdish forces have however maintained a stronghold in Syria’s east. Moscow and Ankara in September brokered an agreement to set up the buffer zone to avert a new offensive in Idlib that would be patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops.
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