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US kills senior Al Qaeda leader in drone strike

MQ-9 Reaper during Exercise Northern Strike 2019. (Arizona Air National Guard/Released)
October 25, 2021

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone killed a senior Al Qaeda leader near the Syrian town of Suluk on Friday, according to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

In a Friday statement, CENTCOM spokesman U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee said the U.S. MQ-9 drone targeted Al Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar near the northwestern Syrian town. CENTCOM said it has found no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike.

“Al Qaeda continues to present a threat to America and our allies. Al Qaeda uses Syria as a safe haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations,” Rigsbee said. “Al Qaeda also uses Syria as a base for threats reaching into Syria, Iraq and beyond.”

“The removal of this Al Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” Rigsbee added. “The U.S. will continue to target members of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations who intend to harm the U.S. homeland.”

The U.S. drone strike came two days after U.S. troops stationed at the Al Tanf garrison in Syria were targeted by both unmanned aerial systems and indirect fire weapons.

In a statement provided to American Military News on Friday, CENTCOM spokesman U.s. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, said, “We can confirm that the Al Tanf Garrison area was subjected to a deliberate and coordinated attack.  Based on initial reports, the attack utilized both unmanned aerial systems and indirect fire.”

“All U.S. personnel have been accounted for, and we are not aware of any injuries to U.S. personnel at this time,” Urban added of the attack on the U.S. garrison. “We continue to work with our partners to confirm whether they suffered any casualties as a result of this deliberate attack.

The Friday drone strike also comes about a month after the U.S. killed Salim Abu-Ahmad, another senior Al Qaeda leader, in another drone strike near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.

As of U.S. force estimates provided in July, CNN reported there are currently about 900 U.S. troops still stationed in Syria.