According to a US Central Command spokeswoman, top al-Qaeda commander Abdul Hamid al-Matar was killed in a drone attack in Syria on Friday. In a written statement, US Army Major John Rigsbee said, “The elimination of an al-Qaeda top leader will impede the terrorist organization’s capacity to develop and carry out worldwide assaults targeting US citizens, our allies, and innocent civilians.”
The strike came just two days after an attack on a US base in southern Syria. Rigsbee did not indicate whether the US drone strike was in retaliation. He stated there were no reported casualties from the hit, which was carried out using an MQ-9 aircraft.
“The loss of an al-Qaeda top official will jeopardize the terrorist organization’s capacity to plan and carry out worldwide assaults,” he warned. Salim Abu-Ahmad, another prominent Al-Qaeda commander in Syria, was killed in an attack near Idlib in the country’s northwest towards the end of September.
According to Centcom, he was in charge of “planning, financing, and sanctioning trans-regional Al-Qaeda assaults.”
“Al-Qaeda continues to pose a danger to the United States and its allies. Syria serves as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda to reconstitute, interact with overseas affiliates, and plan external activities,” said Rigsbee.
Syria’s continuous conflict has produced a complicated battlefield including foreign forces, militias, and Islamists. Since it began in 2011 with a harsh crackdown on anti-government rallies, the conflict has killed about 500,000 people.
In September, the Pentagon also carried out a hit in rebel-held northern Syria, killing another top al-Qaeda figure, Salim Abu-Ahmad. The previous attack took place near the province of Idlib. Large areas of Idlib and neighboring Aleppo are still in the hands of the Syrian armed opposition, which is led by organizations such as the once-al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in a complicated battlefield including foreign armies, militias, and other armed organizations aligned with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, commonly known as ISIS), and other related parties. Since its beginning back in 2011 with a harsh crackdown on anti-government rallies, the conflict has killed about 500,000 people.