John Wayne would be proud: Kick in the door, kill the bad guy, and free his captive.
U.S. commandos mounted a rare raid into eastern Syria overnight, killing a senior Islamic State commander in a firefight, capturing his wife and rescuing a Yazidi woman held as a slave, the Pentagon said Saturday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the raid, identifying the militant as Abu Sayyaf. He said no U.S. forces were killed or injured in the operation.
A U.S. defense official said the raid was conducted overnight Friday (Friday evening Washington time) by a team of Army Delta commandos who flew from Iraq into eastern Syria aboard V-22 Osprey aircraft and Blackhawk helicopters.
Upon arrival at the target, which was a multi-story building, the Americans met stiff resistance. A “fairly intense firefight” ensued, including hand-to-hand combat, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the raid by name.
The U.S. estimates that about a dozen IS fighters were killed but no civilians were wounded, even though women and children were present. The Americans returned to their base unharmed by about midnight Washington time.
The IS leader who was killed was a Tunisian national designated by IS as the organization’s “emir of oil and gas,” according to the U.S. official.
The statement said the commandos rescued a young Yazidi woman “who appears to have been held as a slave” by the slain militant and his wife. IS militants captured hundreds of members of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq during their rampage across the country last summer.
The target was apparently at an oil and gas facility that some elements of Syrian state media also claim was attacked by Syrian forces, though not all government organs broadcast the news. It’s possible this raid was carried out in conjunction with the Syrians: it wouldn’t be the first time enemies have cooperated to take out a mutual foe. The subsequent silence and denials might have been to keep this occasional cooperation clandestine, as certain other parties might not be happy to learn that Washington and Damascus were talking. In that case, the single mention was an accidental “blabbing.”
Or, the Assad team was simply trying to grab some credit. It will probably be a long time before we know, if ever.
Regardless, a rare “well done” to President Obama for ordering this operation, to our commandos for their valor (never rare), and good wishes for the former slave as she recovers from her ordeal.