U.S. officials announced Monday that special forces conducted an operation in eastern Syria to capture leaders of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, as Russian airstrikes bolstered a Turkish offensive to capture territory held by the jihadist militants in the country’s northwest.
An elite group of U.S. soldiers landed Sunday by helicopter north of the city of Deir al-Zour, contested between ISIS and the Syrian army, and remained about an hour and a half before departing with ISIS prisoners and bodies, according to local media. The operation focused on a vehicle believed to be carrying members of ISIS’ leadership, however, Pentagon officials declined to say who exactly was targeted, but at least 25 ISIS fighters were reportedly killed without any U.S. casualties, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based organization with ties to the Syrian opposition.
The Pentagon’s statement followed a week of Russian airstrikes near the northwestern city of Al Bab, captured by ISIS militants in 2013. The campaign backed a ground offensive by Turkish-sponsored Syrian rebels and marked the first instance of Moscow’s support for Turkey’s “Operation Euphrates Shield” launched in August. Russia, who supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, has in the past opposed Turkey’s intervention on behalf of opposition forces in the conflict. After the Russian-backed Syrian army was able last month to recapture Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial capital and largest city, from rebels, Turkey has coordinated with Russia in an effort to wipe out their mutual enemy, ISIS, and secure a peaceful resolution to the more than five-year conflict.
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