Tags: abu sayyaf | isis | attack | us | raid

With Swoop on Islamic State Compound, U.S. Commandos Seek to Disrupt Financing

Saturday, 16 May 2015 06:14 PM

After weeks of planning and surveillance focused on a compound near the oilfields of eastern Syria, elite American commandos were finally given the green light to swoop in on their target - an Islamic State commander considered to have acted as the group's "chief financial officer."

Mounting a rare raid in a war-ravaged country where U.S. President Barack Obama has long been reluctant to commit "boots on the ground," the Delta Force unit flew in from Iraq under cover of darkness in the early hours of Saturday on Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Their objective, according to U.S. officials: to capture alive a Tunisian-born militant leader, Abu Sayyaf, believed responsible for overseeing the group's black-market sales of oil and gas and other financial operations to help fund a brutal Jihadist campaign that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq.

As U.S. special operations forces assaulted the compound housing Islamic State leadership in the town of al-Amr,, they were confronted by militant fighters.

A fierce firefight ensued, creating scenes of chaos.

"There was close quarters, hand-to-hand combat," one U.S. official said.

Abu Sayyaf "engaged" the U.S. attackers and was killed, the Pentagon said, as were about a dozen insurgents. His wife, Umm Sayyaf, who officials said was also involved in Islamic State's "terrorist activities," was apprehended and taken back to Iraq for interrogation.

U.S. authorities hope they can gain useful intelligence from her and from laptops and cellphones that were seized. "We are also working to determine any information she may have regarding hostages," said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

U.S. officials may be especially determined to find out anything they can about what happened to Kayla Mueller, a young American aid worker who died earlier this year while a captive of Islamic State in Syria.

 

BID TO DISRUPT ISLAMIC STATE FINANCING

The White House called the targeting of Abu Sayyaf a "significant blow" to disrupt Islamic State's financing - though the raid may also show Obama more willing to risk limited ground operations in Syria after largely depending on air strikes.

"Think of him as the 'CFO' of Islamic State," one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The operation was meticulously planned. U.S. commandos spent weeks in Iraq training and poring through reams of video footage from surveillance drones, U.S. officials said.

The last thing Washington wanted was the repeat of a failed special forces operation in northeastern Syria last year to rescue U.S. and other foreign hostages held by Islamic State.

Obama gave the go-ahead once there was "credible intelligence" that the target was present, a U.S. official said.

As the raid began at around 4 a.m. local time with U.S. warplanes thundering overhead, pandemonium erupted at the village-like compound, which includes a swimming pool and tennis courts. Islamic State had kicked out some Syrian oil workers to make way for Islamic State militants and their families.

The special forces used military dogs in the operation and one woman was bitten and another shot in the hand, requiring treatment at a hospital, according to local Syrian sources.

U.S. officials said no civilians were wounded in the operation. But they said a Yazidi woman held by the couple as a slave was rescued.

Islamic State tried to send in reinforcements, including several truckloads of fighters, but by the time they arrived it was too late, according to Mujahid Shami, a representative of an anti-Islamic State group who received reports from people inside the compound.

The militants appeared stunned at how U.S. forces knew the layout well enough to home in on Abu Sayyaf's location, local sources said. Afterwards, Islamic State ejected all other civilians from the buildings and set up checkpoints, Shami said.

The compound consists of about 50 buildings where around a thousand people lived, he said. It was built by the Syrian government for families of employees of the nearby Omari oil field in Deir al-Zor province, an Islamic State stronghold that bridges territory the group controls in Syria and Iraq.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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After weeks of planning and surveillance focused on a compound near the oilfields of eastern Syria, elite American commandos were finally given the green light to swoop in on their target - an Islamic State commander considered to have acted as the group's chief financial...
abu sayyaf, isis, attack, us, raid
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2015-14-16
Saturday, 16 May 2015 06:14 PM
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