U.S. military springs into action, takes out senior al-Qaeda leadership

At least one senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in an airstrike conducted by U.S. forces on Monday, reports say.

“U.S. forces conducted a kinetic counterterrorism strike near Idlib, Syria, today, on a senior al-Qaeda leader,” U.S. Central Command spokesperson Lt. Josie Lynne Lenny said in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner.

“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,” the Navy lieutenant added.

U.S. officials have been somewhat tight-lipped about the strike, with Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby refusing to provide more details during Monday’s Pentagon press briefing.

But two humanitarian groups provided additional context regarding the attack and its aftermath.

“The Civil Defense team, known as White Helmets, said the unidentified body was lifted from the car along the Idlib-Binnish road east of Idlib province. The charred vehicle, split in the middle, lay on the side of the rural road in an orchid,” The Associated Press reported.

Moreover, “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said the vehicle carried a militant from one of the radical groups operating in the province. The Observatory didn’t identify the group but said it was linked to al-Qaida,” the AP added.

According to Charles Lister, director of the Middle East Institute’s Syria Program, the strike targeted a vehicle carrying three senior leaders of Huras al-Din, a Syrian terror group with close ties to al-Qaeda: Abu al-Bara al-Tunisi, Abu Hamza al-Yemeni and a third, unknown individual. Lister’s reporting was based on sources who he did not name.

“By all accounts, it seems very likely that as I initially said, Abu al-Bara al-Tunisi (a senior Huras al-Din ideologue) & Abu Hamza al-Yemeni (a senior military leader) were killed in today’s U.S. drone strike,” Lister added.

It’s not the first time that the U.S. has looked to take out terrorists in Idlib. U.S. forces have previously targeted al-Qaeda militants, as well as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the now-deceased leader of the Islamic State terror group.