Nighttime U.S. Helicopter Raid Captures ‘Senior Daesh Leader’ In Syria (Updated)

The helicopters were seen flying fast and very low with their lights off over northwestern Syria.

byHoward Altman|
Night Stalkers Syria
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Forces from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State jihadi group detained what officials say is a “senior Daesh leader" in an operation in Syria today that had no civilian casualties.

Daesh is an Arabic pejorative for ISIS, widely used by the coalition.

“The detained individual was assessed to be an experienced bomb maker and facilitator who became one of the group’s top leaders in Syria,” officials from Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said in a media release Wednesday evening.

Earlier this evening, video began emerging on social media showing helicopters, likely those from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), better known as the Night Stalkers, flying blacked-out at high speed and very low altitude over northwest Syria.

It was not immediately clear what role U.S. forces played in the mission beyond airborne transportation and support. The coalition consists of dozens of nations. We've reached out to CJTF-OIR for answers and will update this story.

The mission “was meticulously planned to minimize the risk of collateral damage, particularly any potential harm to civilians,” the release stated. “There were no civilians harmed during the operation nor any damage to Coalition aircraft or assets.”

Coalition forces, said CTFT-OIR “will continue to hunt the remnants of Daesh wherever they hide to ensure their enduring defeat.”

This is a breaking story. Stay with The War Zone for updates.

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Update: 9:42 p.m.

U.S. forces were involved in both planning and conducting the raid and U.S. aircraft were used in the operation, a senior coalition leader tells The War Zone. That leader would not comment about whether the 160th SOAR was involved, saying "for operational security reasons, we do not go into specifics of our missions."

Update: 1:32 p.m. June 16

The Daesh leader was identified as Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi.

Al-Kurdi "was an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator who became one of the top leaders in the Syrian branch of ISIS," according to a Thursday media release from CJTF-OIR.

Known as Salim, he was "responsible for coordinating terrorist activities across the region. He was instructing others on making explosive devices, supporting the construction of improvised explosive device facilities, and facilitating attacks on U.S. and partner forces."