JEDDAH: A top Daesh bomb maker and explosives expert was captured in a raid in northern Syria on Thursday by special forces from the US-led coalition.
Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, known as Salim, was the Daesh leader in charge of the Syrian city of Raqqa when it was the de facto capital of the group’s so-called “caliphate” in much of Iraq and Syria.
American defense officials said he was now in US custody and was being questioned. The anti-Daesh coalition said the operation to capture him had been “successful,” with no civilians harmed and no injuries to the coalition forces.
“The mission to capture Al-Kurdi was meticulously planned to minimize the risk of civilian harm or collateral damage,” it said.
“He was instructing others on making explosive devices, supporting the construction of improvised explosive device facilities, and facilitating attacks on US and partner forces.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in Britain that has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said Thursday’s operation began with two helicopters landing near the targeted area in the village of Al-Humaira in Aleppo province, about 4 km from the Turkish border.
It said there were clashes with gunmen hiding in houses in the village in the northern Aleppo countryside as they were chased by coalition forces.
Iraqi intelligence officials said Al-Kurdi was a Syrian national who rose through Daesh ranks to become one of their most senior and dangerous leaders, and an expert on manufacturing booby-traps and explosives.
Coalition forces declared victory over Daesh in March 2019 after retaking the group’s last piece of territory in Syria. But the militants continue to operate and carry out deadly attacks in both Iraq and Syria through sleeper cells, and they also maintain several affiliates in other countries.
The coalition has conducted raids in the past to take out Daesh leaders. In February, the group’s leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi blew himself up along with members of his family as American forces raided his Syria hideout.
His predecessor, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, died similarly along with his family in 2019 by detonating a suicide vest in a tunnel in northwest Syria in a military operation authorized by the Trump administration.
The Daesh group at the height of its power controlled more than 100,000 square km stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled over 8 million people. Its attacks in the region included a major assault last year to seize a prison in northeast Syria holding at least 3,000 terrorist detainees.