Top al Qaeda leader Salim Abu-Ahmad killed in US strike in Syria: Reports
Salim Abu-Ahmad, a senior leader of the al Qaeda terror outfit, has been identified as killed in a US drone strike in Syria last month, multiple reports said on Friday morning, citing Pentagon officials familiar with the matter. The development was first reported on by Fox News, which cited US defence officials who identified the terrorist. Later, the US Central Command (Centcom) told the Military Times that Abu-Ahmed was killed in the September 20 drone strike near Idlib in Syria, adding that there were zero civilian casualties this time.
Centcom spokesperson Major John Rigsbee said while speaking to the Military Times that Salim Abu-Ahmed was a notorious al Qaeda leader responsible for “planning, funding, and approving” a multitude of ‘trans-regional’ attacks. “There are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the United States will continue to target international terrorist networks abroad whose actions risk its interests and allies across the world.
On September 20, the Associated Press reported, citing rescue workers and a war monitor, that the US drone strike in rebel-controlled northwestern Syria hit a vehicle travelling on a rural road; and that at least one person was killed in the incident. White Helmets, a civil defence team, told AP that the “unidentified body” was lifted from the car along the Idlib-Binnish road east of the Idlib province in Syria. The charred vehicle, split in the middle, lay on the side of the rural road in an orchid.
The US central command later said that American forces had conducted a “kinetic counterterrorism strike” near the Idlib province targeting a senior leader of al Qaeda. In a statement at the time, US navy lieutenant Josie Lynne Lenny said that “initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike.” No additional details were released officially thereafter.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that the vehicle carried “a militant from one of the radical groups operating in the province,” adding that it was “linked to al Qaida” but stopped short of identifying the group.
Notably, Washington has earlier carried out attacks in the Idlib region before targeting al Qaeda terrorists and the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was hiding in the province after fleeing from eastern Syria.