U.S. forces carried out an airstrike in Syria on Monday that killed a senior leader of Hurras al-Din, a terrorist organization affiliated with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
In a statement provided to American Military News, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said U.S. forces conducted a “kinetic strike” in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, against Hurras al-Din senior leader Abu Hamzah al Yemeni. CENTCOM did not provide specific details about the kinetic strike, but said al Yemeni was traveling on a motorcycle by himself at the time of the strike and an initial review of the strike indicated no civilian casualties.
Photos of al Yemeni’s motorcycle circulated on social media following the strike.
Joshua Landis, the chair of the Center for Middle East Studies tweeted one photo of the destroyed motorcycle after it had been loaded into the back of a pickup truck. “U.S. kills leader of Hurras al-Din in Idlib, #Syria Abu Hamzah al Yemeni was riding his motorcycle when a US drone struck him He was leader of the al-Qaida linked militia. Centcom says it was threatening attacks on West.”
An aircraft observer also noted reports that three MQ-9 Reaper UAVs were active over Idlib on the day of the strike, indicating the likelihood that al Yemeni was killed in a drone strike.
Hurras al-Din, which is Arabic for “Guardians of Religion,” was formed in February of 2018 when it broke off from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organization. Tahrir al-Sham is the current iteration of Al Qaeda’s main branch in Syria and was formed in January 2017 when Al Qaeda’s Syria-based Al Nusra Front incorporated various other Islamic extremist rebel groups that actively fought throughout the Syrian civil war.
Hurras al-Din may also align on occasion with Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS). ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly staying at a home owned by Hurras al-Din leader Abu Mohammed al-Halabi when he was killed in a U.S. special operations raid on Oct. 27, 2019. Other members of Hurras al-Din are also believed to have been killed during the 2019 raid on Baghdadi. In a 2019 press conference, CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said 10 and 15 non-ISIS militants were killed when they approached U.S. forces during the raid on Baghdadi.
Idlib remains a major haven for Al Qaeda and its affiliates. ISIS members have also been found in parts of northern Syria. Earlier this month a U.S.-led coalition raid led to the capture of a senior ISIS leader, Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
“Violent extremist organizations, including Al Qaeda-aligned organizations such as Hurras al-Din, continue to present a threat to America and our allies,” CENTCOM said on Monday. “Al Qaeda-aligned militants use Syria as a safe haven to coordinate with their external affiliates and plan operations outside of Syria. The removal of this senior leader will disrupt Al Qaeda’s ability to carry out attacks against U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians around the world.”