2023: Operations on Jihadi Leaders
A timeline of operations targeting ISIS leaders in 2023.
The United States and its partners killed at least five ISIS leaders or senior officials and captured six others as of July 2023. All of the operations were carried out in Syria, where U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) had 900 troops deployed, primarily in the northeast. CENTCOM worked closely with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-trained Kurdish and Arab militia that fought ISIS in Syria. The following is a list of major operations.
January 18: U.S. and SDF forces conducted a joint helicopter raid in eastern Syria that led to the capture of an ISIS Syrian provincial media and security operative. “The individual was involved in the planning and facilitation of ISIS operations in and outside of the region as well as global recruiting efforts,” according to CENTCOM.
January 21: U.S. and local forces carried out a joint helicopter and ground attack in eastern Syria that led to the capture of two members of ISIS Syria, facilitator Abdallah Hamid Muslih al Maddad and facilitator and logistician Husam Hamid al Muslih al Maddad al Khayr, and one associate. One civilian was slightly injured. “The capture will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out attacks that threaten regional security and stability,” said CENTCOM spokesperson Colonel Joe Buccino.
January 26: SDF forces, supported by coalition airpower, captured Atallah al Maythan, the ISIS governor of Raqqa, along with 67 other militants. Maythan had overseen the ISIS battalion responsible for an attack on Internal Security Forces on Dec. 26, 2022 that killed six members of the SDF. The mission was part of “Operation Retaliation for Raqqa Martyrs” against sleeper cells.
February 16: U.S. and SDF forces killed senior ISIS leader Hamza al Homsi during a helicopter raid in northeastern Syria. Four U.S. service members and a working dog were wounded in an explosion.
February 18: A partnered U.S. and SDF helicopter raid in eastern Syria resulted in the capture of an ISIS official. The official, named Batar, was responsible for planning attacks on detention facilities run by the SDF and for assembling improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
April 4: The United States killed senior ISIS leader Khalid ‘Aydd Ahmad al Jabouri in a drone strike in Syria. Al Jabouri planned attacks in Europe and developed ISIS leadership structure, according to CENTCOM. His death would “temporarily disrupt the organization’s ability to plot external attacks,” CENTCOM added.
April 8: U.S. forces captured ISIS attack facilitator Hudayfah al Yemeni and two associates during a nighttime helicopter raid in eastern Syria. “ISIS remains a threat to the region and beyond -- the group retains the capability to conduct operations in Iraq and Syria with a desire to strike beyond the Middle East, and its vile ideology remains a threat,” CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Buccino said. “Operations such as this one reaffirms our commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
April 17: U.S. forces killed Abd al Hadi Mahmud al Haji Ali, a senior leader in Syria who coordinated attacks in the Middle East and Europe, as well as two armed individuals during a helicopter raid in northern Syria. “ISIS retains the desire to strike beyond the Middle East,” said CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Buccino. “This raid deals a significant blow to ISIS operations in the region but does not eliminate ISIS’ capability to conduct operations.”
April 29: Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency killed Abu al Husayn al Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS, in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the operation on television the following day. The ISIS leader was reportedly found in Jindires in the northern region of Afrin. Turkey has been a member of the international coalition to defeat ISIS since 2015.
Qurayshi had kept a low profile. He had not issued any public statements since becoming caliph on Nov. 30, 2022, when ISIS announced that its previous leader, Abu al Hassan al Hashimi al Qurayshi, had been killed in combat. CENTCOM, however, said that The Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-backed group opposed to the Assad regime, had killed the caliph in the Syrian province of Dar’a in mid-October 2022.
On August 3, 2023, ISIS belatedly confirmed Qurayshi’s death but claimed that he was killed fighting Hayat Tahrir al Sham, a militant group that has controlled parts of northwestern Syria since at least 2017. The group also named a new caliph, Abu Hafs al Hashimi al Qurayshi.
July 7: U.S. forces conducted a drone strike in Syria that killed Usamah al Muhajir, an ISIS leader in eastern Syria. “We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of CENTCOM. “ISIS remains a threat, not only to the region but well beyond.”
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