United States special operators entered Syria from Iraq Friday night, killing a senior Islamic State official involved with the group’s military operations and its illegal oil and gas sales.
The jihadi leader, identified by U.S. government statements with the single name Abu Sayyaf, was targeted for capture. But according to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, he “was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces” after they located him in the eastern Syrian town of al-Amr.
The special operators also captured his wife, known simply as Umm Sayyaf. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said Umm Sayyaf “is currently in U.S. military detention in Iraq.” The woman is suspected to “play an important role” in the group’s activities.
Meehan also announced the capture of a young woman, “who appears to have been held as a slave by the couple.” The woman belongs to the small Yezidi religion, many of whose Iraqi members were captured during its rampage through Iraq last summer. Human Rights Watch reported in April that while some captured Yezidis are domestic servants to IS leaders, others, including girls as young as eight, are sex slaves.
The U.S. intends to reunite the slave with her family in Iraq.
Friday’s operation becomes the second time since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 that U.S. officials confirmed combat operations in the country. The first was the failed attempt to free U.S. hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, whom IS beheaded in 2014.
The news came shortly after the Syrian government claimed an attack on a major IS-held oil field in the same part of the country, Deir al-Zor Governorate, as the American raid. The Syrian military alleged to have killed 40 terrorist militants, including an “oil minister” whom it identified by the pseudonym Abu al-Taym al-Saudi.
No U.S. personnel died or were injured in the raid, according to government statements.