In a rare ground mission, U.S. commandos killed a midlevel Islamic State commander in east Syria on Sunday, though they had hoped to capture him alive in the raid, commanders say.
U.S. soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Command carried out a raid in Deir al-Zour attempted to capture an Islamic State leader U.S. forces wanted to interrogate, but a firefight broke out and the target was killed while sitting in a car.
A report that 25 fighters had been killed in the two-hour raid from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was disputed by Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Defense Department.
The mission was conducted by a small number of troops based in Iraq used specifically to root down and capture leaders of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.
“The Coalition can confirm a U.S. operation in the vicinity of Deir al-Zour on Jan. 8,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for the U.S. led coalition responsible for the raid, told The Washington Post. “The U.S. and the entire counter-ISIL Coalition will continue to pursue ISIL leaders wherever they are to ensure the security and stability of the region and our homelands.”
U.S. commandos helicoptored in but when they found the vehicle of the midlevel leader, a firefight broke out and the suspect was killed. Another person in the car also died, however Davis said the observatory’s count of 25 was far to high by “orders of magnitude.”
Most of the missions to find Islamic State leadership or soldiers have involved air attacks, but military officials say the ground raids have their proper time and place.
“We’ve done them before and we’ll do them again,” Davis said.