Stockshot Pentagon Eagle insignia 17032020 CREDIT US DEPT OF DEFENSE
Picture: US Department of Defense
USA

Pentagon: US kills IS leader in Syria drone strike

Stockshot Pentagon Eagle insignia 17032020 CREDIT US DEPT OF DEFENSE
Picture: US Department of Defense

The leader of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria has been killed in a drone strike, the Pentagon says. 

US Central Command said in a news release that Maher al-Agal was killed on Tuesday and an unidentified senior official in IS was seriously injured. 

The Pentagon said there were no civilian casualties, although it was not possible to immediately confirm that information.

The US carried out the strike outside Jindaris, a town in north-west Syria close to the Turkish border. 

At the height of its power, IS controlled more than 40,000 square miles stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled more than eight million people. 

While the group's territorial state collapsed in 2019, its leaders have turned to guerrilla tactics and been able to "efficiently restructure themselves organisationally", according to the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a non-partisan think tank. 

The strike on al-Agal comes months after the head of the group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, killed himself during a raid of his hideout by American special forces. 

The US said al-Qurayshi blew himself up along with members of his family. 

According to a war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, al-Agal was a former prominent commander of IS during its control of Raqqa and had since moved further north to Afrin in 2020 under Turkish-backed factions. 

He was most recently a commander in a Turkish-backed faction called Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah. 

US-led coalition forces have also targeted al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria over the years. 

Last month, a US drone strike killed a senior leader of the Horas al-Din group, Abu Hamzah al Yemeni. 

The US Central Command has said violent extremist organisations "continue to present a threat to America and our allies, and that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have used the rebel-held enclave in north-western Syria as a safe haven". 

Operation Shader – the operational code name used for the UK's contribution to the US-led mission against so-called Islamic State  – has been running since August 2014.

Airstrikes over Syria were first launched in December 2015, following approval from the British Government.

The Royal Air Force has flown thousands of sorties providing strikes, surveillance and reconnaissance, air-to-air refuelling and transport.