U.S. special operations forces killed a high-ranking member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a raid carried out in eastern Syria on Friday, the Department of Defense confirmed Saturday morning. The member, Abu Sayyaf, is believed to be a senior leader within ISIS, having been responsible for not only planning the extremist group's military operations, but also overseeing the group's illicit gas and oil operations, according to the Defense Department. Sayyaf's wife, Umm, is also a suspected ISIS member who may complicit in some of the group's heinous criminal activities; she was captured by U.S. military troops during Friday's raid.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday in a statement released by the Pentagon:
Last night, at the direction of the Commander in Chief, I ordered U.S. special operations forces to conduct an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces.
No U.S. service members were injured or killed during the raid. "I thank the extraordinary men and women in uniform who executed this complex and challenging mission, along with all those who supported it," Carter said.
The defense secretary also confirmed that U.S. troops captured Umm Sayyaf, who defense officials suspect "played an important role in ISIL's terrorist activities." Carter said that Umm may be partly responsible for enslaving a young Yazidi woman who was rescued during Friday's raid. ISIS members have reportedly kidnapped hundreds of Yazidi girls and women, forcing them into sexual slavery and arranged marriages, according to reports from human rights organizations such as the United Nations. The Yazidi are a religious minority living in northern Iraq.
Carter categorized this latest U.S. military offense as a "another significant blow" to ISIS. "It is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies," the defense secretary added.
The White House released a statement Saturday confirming the death of Abu Sayyaf and the capture of his wife, Umm. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said Umm is currently being held in a U.S. military detention center in Iraq.
"We are working to determine an ultimate disposition for the detainee that best supports the national security of the United States and of our allies and partners, consistent with domestic and international law," Meehan said.
President Obama reportedly authorized Friday's raid after receiving an unanimous recommendation from his national security team. "As Commander-in-Chief, the President is grateful to the brave U.S. personnel who carried out this complex mission," Meehan said. "The United States will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Iraqi partners in our effort to degrade and ultimately destroy [ISIS]."
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