At least four leaders of the self-declared Islamic State, including Abu Sayyaf, were among 32 members of the extremist group killed in airstrikes and a U.S. Special Forces raid inside Syria, according to U.K.-based monitors.
On Saturday, the U.S. acknowledged killing Abu Sayyaf, a senior commander, and about a dozen fighters. Reuters, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says Sayyaf has been identified as Tunisian. The three other commanders are Moroccan, according to the Observatory, which identifies one of them as the assistant of Abo Omar al-Shishani, the military chief of ISIS.
Reuters says “the operation in the eastern Deir al-Zor province marked a departure from Washington’s strategy of relying primarily on air strikes to target militants in the area.”
Michael O’Hanlon, who specializes in national security and defense at the Brookings Institution, is quoted by USA Today as saying that while the raid is a departure for President Obama’s administration, its impact is limited.
“Limited risk-taking will be needed to have a chance of even limited success, and this raid crosses an important threshold while still being true to the president’s strong preference for limiting U.S. involvement,” O’Hanlon was quoted by the newspaper as saying.