WASHINGTON – The US military said four of its troops and a working dog were wounded when a senior Islamic State leader triggered a blast during a helicopter-borne raid by the United States and local Kurdish-led fighters on his location in eastern Syria late on Thursday.
The suspected IS official, identified by the US military as Hamza al-Homsi, was killed during the operation in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province.
The four US personnel and dog remain in stable condition after having been transported to Iraq to receive medical treatment at a US facility, spokesperson for US Central Command Joe Buccino told Al-Monitor in an emailed statement.
No members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were hurt in the operation, nor were any civilians believed to have been at the site, Buccino said. No other IS fighters were killed or captured during the operation.
“Hamza al-Homsi oversaw the group’s deadly terrorist network in eastern Syria before he was killed in the raid,” Buccino wrote.
Why it matters: The raid marks the first time American personnel have been wounded in action in Syria since last August, when rocket fire believed to have been launched by Iran-backed militias on the US-run Conoco support facility in Deir ez-Zor lightly injured three troops.
The United States maintains roughly 900 troops in the country to pursue remaining IS figures with the help of local Syrian fighters, chief among them a Kurdish-led alliance of militias calling itself the Syrian Democratic Forces.
But pressure from other players in the conflict — mainly Iran-backed militias and Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurdish-led force as a terrorist organization — has continued to complicate the operations.
The SDF resumed partnered operations alongside the United States against IS on Dec. 8 after a hiatus in which its commander, Mazlum Abdi, sought to prepare for what his side saw as a looming attack by Turkey, potentially targeting the Kurdish-stronghold city of Kobani.
Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official and CIA paramilitary officer turned ABC News analyst, told Al-Monitor that those still fighting should not be forgotten. "The mission to ensure the enduring defeat of [IS] in Syria continues," he said.
A spokesperson for the SDF did not immediately respond to Al-Monitor's request for comment on the operation.