U.S. Special Ops Forces Enter Syria, Kill Senior ISIS Member
NBC News - U.S. Special Operations Forces killed a senior leader of ISIS overnight Friday during a rare and risky ground raid in Syria and freed a young woman who was enslaved in his compound, the White House announced Saturday.
The preplanned operation near the eastern Syrian city of al-Amr was supposed to be a snatch and grab mission to capture ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf alive. Instead, he was killed amid an intense fire fight and hand-to-hand combat between ISIS militants and Army Delta Force commandos.
Twelve enemy fighters were killed in the operation, while no American forces were hurt, U.S. officials said.
As the Special Operations Forces departed, they took Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, who is also considered to be an ISIS operative, into custody. As the helicopters departed, they were struck by heavy ground fire but not disabled and were able to depart the area safely.
The mission is the first known American commandos operation inside Syria outside of a failed attempt to rescue hostages held by ISIS last year.
Umm Sayyaf is being held in Iraq and will be secluded from other prisoners, officials told NBC News. She is accused of being "directly complicit in (ISIS) activities, specifically human trafficking," an official said.
The White House's National Security Council confirmed Umm Sayyaf is being "debriefed."
"We are also working to determine any information she may have regarding hostages — including American citizens who were held by (ISIS)," spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
In addition, Friday's operation "also led to the freeing of a young Yazidi woman who appears to have been held as a slave by the couple," the White House said.
Abu Sayyaf was in charge of overseeing ISIS's oil and gas operations, which provide crucial revenue for the militant group that has conquered swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Iraqi authorities supported Friday's raid.
A U.S. military official described the mission, which was met with heavy resistance from ISIS, as a "hugely successful operation" and represents a "significant blow" to the terror network operating in Syria and Iraq.
"Despite the rhetoric, (ISIS) is suffering significant losses in leadership and the ability to conduct operations," the official told NBC News. "Through strikes in Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish offensive in northern Syria and military successes in Iraq, (ISIS) is desperate."