BFF-37 Syria coalition says it killed IS leader linked to beheadings

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Syria coalition says it killed IS leader linked to beheadings

BEIRUT, Dec 3, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The US-led coalition against the Islamic
State group said Monday it killed a senior jihadist involved in the
executions of an American aid worker and other Western hostages.

Abu al-Umarayn was accused of involvement in the November 2014 beheading of
Peter Kassig, a former US ranger who was doing volunteer humanitarian work
when captured in 2013.

“He was killed and more information will be available after a full
assessment,” Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said in a
statement issued after the Sunday strikes.

“Al Umarayn had given indications of posing an imminent threat to coalition
forces and he was involved in the killing of American citizen and former US
Army Ranger, Peter Kassig,” he said.

Ryan said the jihadist had also been involved in the execution of several
other prisoners.

It is the first time the coalition, which has been hunting down IS fighters
in Iraq and Syria since 2014, has announced the killing of a jihadist leader
linked to Kassig’s death.

At the time of the execution, IS released a video showing Kassig’s severed
head but did not publish footage of the decapitation, as it had done for
other hostages.

Syria’s official SANA news agency had earlier Sunday accused the US-led
coalition of firing on Syrian army positions in remote eastern regions.

– Regime targeted? –

“The American coalition forces launched around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) this
evening several missiles against some positions of our forces in the Ghorab
mountains south of Sukhna,” it said.

Quoting a military source, it said the bombardment had caused only material
damage.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition forces
fired “more than 14 missiles” at a Syrian army convoy as it was passing
through the desert.

“The group was lost in the middle of the desert around 35 kilometres from
the Al-Tanf base”, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The United States often uses this base to launch its strikes against IS
jihadists.

Ryan, the coalition spokesman, denied any strikes targeted the Syrian army.

“False, the strikes were as the report stated and directed at ISIS,” he
said, using another acronym for the jihadist organisation.

Kassig founded a humanitarian organisation in 2012 that trained some 150
civilians to provide medical aid to people in Syria. His group also gave
food, cooking supplies, clothing and medicine to the needy.

He took the name Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam.

His execution was part of a gruesome series of Western hostage beheadings
that IS filmed and published to shock the world as it attempted to expand
across the region.

– 2014 executions –

Before Kassig’s decapitation, which IS announced on November 16, four other
hostages were executed by IS:

– British aid worker Alan Henning (video released on October 3)

– British aid worker David Haines (video released on September 13)

– US journalist Steven Sotloff (video released on September 2)

– US journalist James Foley (video released on August 19)

Another hostage held at the time and whose execution was threatened was
British journalist John Cantlie.

He later appeared in videos in which he uttered IS propaganda but, more
than six years after his kidnapping, his fate remains unclear.

The leader of the cell which was responsible for the executions and became
known as “The Beatles” was believed to be Mohammed Emwazi, a British jihadist
nicknamed “Jihadi John” who was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

After expanding to control a self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and
Iraq which was larger than Britain, IS suffered a string of military
setbacks.

It has virtually no fixed positions left in Iraq and is now defending a few
pockets in desert areas of Syria, including the region where Sunday’s strikes
were carried out.

The other is the jihadists’ main active front in the Hajin area of Deir
Ezzor province, where coalition-backed Kurdish-led fighters have been
struggling to flush out a group of jihadists making a fierce last stand.

The coalition has estimated around 2,000 jihadists remain inside that
pocket.

The international alliance, as well as the Syrian government and its
Russian backers, have all repeatedly vowed to carry on the fight until
achieving a full victory over IS.

But analysts have warned that fully eradicating the jihadists from those
desert hideouts, where the state has a very limited footprint, could prove
almost impossible.

BSS/AFP/RY/1910 hrs