Updated Oct 23, 2021 - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

Photo of a sprawling displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria
A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

What they're saying: "The removal of this al-Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians," Rigsbee said in the statement.

  • U.S. Central Command currently has "no indications of civilian casualties."
  • The strike was conducted using an MQ-9 aircraft.
  • "The U.S. will continue to target members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations who intend to harm the U.S. homeland," Rigsbee added.

The big picture: The airstrike comes days after two drone strikes and some rockets targeted a military outpost in southern Syria that houses U.S. and coalition troops, AP reports.

  • Officials called it a coordinated attack, though no American soldiers were injured or killed.
  • Central Command did not address the earlier attack in the Friday statement about al-Matar.

In a separate incident this week, a roadside bomb exploded near Syrian troops and killed at least 13 people in Damascus.

Worth noting: The Biden administration faced backlash earlier this year after the Pentagon admitted a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians instead of an ISIS-K leader as initially claimed.

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