US: Harassed Drones Later Killed ISIS Leader

Usamah al-Muhajir was riding a motorcycle near Aleppo, official says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 9, 2023 5:20 PM CDT
US: Harassed Drones Later Killed IS Leader
In this image from video released by the US Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a US MQ-9 Reaper drone on Wednesday over Syria.   (U.S. Air Force via AP)

A US drone strike killed an Islamic State group leader in Syria hours after the same MQ-9 Reaper drones were harassed by Russian military jets over the western part of the country, the Defense Department reported Sunday. Three Reapers had been flying overhead searching for the militant on Friday, a military official said, when they were harassed for about two hours by Russian aircraft. Shortly after that, the drones struck and killed Usamah al-Muhajir while he was riding a motorcycle in the Aleppo region, said the official, who the AP reports was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said al-Muhajir, who usually operated in the east, was in northwest Syria at the time of the strike. It was not immediately clear how the military confirmed that the person killed was al-Muhajir; no other details were provided. In a statement Sunday, US Central Command said there are no indications any civilians were killed in the strike. The military was assessing reports a civilian may have been injured. Friday was the third day in a row that US officials complained that Russian fighter jets in the region had conducted unsafe and harassing flights around American drones.

US forces have increased raids on suspected Islamic State operatives in Syria, including leaders who had taken shelter under the control of rebels backed by Turkey, per the Guardian. Many of them are suspected of planning attacks overseas. The head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said the Kremlin is disturbed about the drone flights over northern Syria. Rear Adm Oleg Gurinov described them as "systematic violations of protocols" intended to head off any military engagements. (More ISIS stories.)

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