Coalition did not conduct air strike on senior al Qaida leader in Syria: Coalition Spokesperson
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Col. Wayne Marotto, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, affirmed in a tweet on Wednesday that the Coalition did not conduct an airstrike that killed a senior al-Qaeda leader in Idlib, Syria, on Monday.
.@CJTFOIR did not conduct an airstrike on Sept. 20, 2021 on a senior al-Qaeda leader in Idlib, Syria. See U.S. Central Command statement below.— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) September 22, 2021
Earlier on Tuesday, the US military confirmed that they killed an Al-Qaida official in Idlib on Monday.
"U.S. forces conducted a kinetic counterterrorism strike near Idlib, Syria, today, on a senior al-Qaeda leader. Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokeswoman, Lieutenant Josie Lynne Lenny, said in a statement.
Idlib, a strategic governorate that borders Turkey and hosts over two million people, is the last major Syrian territory still in militant hands.
Most of it is held by Islamist Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
Farhad Shami, the head of the SDF Office of Media and Information, welcomed the airstrikes.
“We welcome the air strike in the Idlib region, which targeted al-Qaeda leaders,” he said in a tweet on Monday.
“We remind our partners in the international coalition that hundreds of terrorists and ISIS fighters are operating in the occupied areas of Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain,” he added. “It is important that the international community pressure Turkey not to turn the occupied areas into a safe environment for terrorists who pose a threat to the world.”
The SDF official in a statement on September 17, also said that HTS activity in Afrin is increasing.
Also, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor reported on September 8 that the Suleiman Shah Brigade led by Muhammad al-Jassem (also nicknamed Abu Amsha) has shown its readiness to collaborate with the HTS against the Syrian government.
This led to the defection of one group called the al-Mu’taz Bellah battalion from the Suleiman Shah Brigade, for “ignoring its (HTS) criminality against us when we were in Hama countryside.”
Since Turkish-backed militias took control of the Kurdish-majority northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin in early 2018, multiple credible reports have emerged that credibly that indicate multiple former ISIS fighters had become members. According to an August 2019 report by the Syria-based Rojava Information Center (RIC), at least 40 former ISIS fighters joined various Turkish-backed groups there.
Moreover, a report released by the human rights organization Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) in June documented 27 ISIS leaders and fighters who had enlisted in the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA).
In July, the US sanctioned a Turkish-backed militia in Syria called Ahrar al-Sharqiya for human rights violations against ethnic Kurds and for its integration of several former ISIS members into its ranks.
In the past, unidentified drones have targeted ISIS leaders in areas under Turkish-control. In May 2020, for example, one former senior ISIS leader was killed in Turkish occupied Afrin by an unidentified drone strike.