Within five months… seven targeting operations kill 11 “jihadists” in Idlib
Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish
Since last May, the targeting of prominent leaders of “jihadists” groups in northern Syria by “unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as “drones,” most likely belonging to the International Coalition Forces (ICF), has increased significantly.
The ICF’s drones have killed 11 military leaders and fighters, northern Syria, some of which were independent individuals working in training. Others were commanders from the “Guardians of Religion Organization,” an armed insurgent group affiliated with the “al-Qaeda” in Syria, in addition to unidentified individuals.
Most of these targeting operations were carried out using the so-called US-made “Ninja” missiles; nevertheless, the US did not claim responsibility for the targeting.
Some of those killed by the drones were not identified, either because their bodies were mutilated by aerial bombing, and there were no documents reveling to which side they belong or because the targeted figures’ entities were not announced.
On 21 May, two people were killed by a drone strike on a “Santafe” typed vehicle on the al-Iskan – al-Ghazawiyah road in Jendres district of Afrin city, north-western Aleppo province.
The dead people’s identity was not identified, but accounts close to the “Hay’ at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)” said that one of the dead was a former “military leader in Hama state” in the so-called the “Islamic State (IS) organization,” Abu Zaki al-Tibani; nonetheless, the IS did announce the death of al-Tibani, and no public statement was made in this regard.
Another person was killed by a drone bomb while on a motorcycle on 20 June, on the road between the al-Dana village in Aleppo’s countryside and the al-Bab city. The targeted person was carrying a civilian identity card issued by the local council of Akhtarin town, in a first targeting by a drone in the region.
On 20 July, an ICF’s drone targeted a white “Honda” vehicle with a license plate from Azaz city, killing two people inside it.
While the Washington-led ICF does not formally adopt these operations, Enab Baladi has communicated with the US Central Command of the ICF through e-mail and inquired about the ICF’s responsibility for these strikes.
In response, the US Central Command Spokesman Captain Bill Urban said, “we are aware of reports of raids in northern Syria.”
Urban added, “the US fully supports all operations aimed at eliminating the IS organization at any possible opportunity.”
“Drones” and “Santafe” present at the killing of the “Guardians of Religion” leaders
Last June, three leaders of the “Guardians of Religion Organization,” affiliated with “al-Qaeda” in Syria, were killed. On 24 June, the organization’s leadership announced the death of deputy commander-in-chief, Khaled al-Arouri, known as “Abu al-Qassam the Jordanian.”
On 15 June, air raids by drones targeted a “Santafe” vehicle, which led to the injury of “Abu al-Qassam,” while his companion, Bilal al-Sanani, was immediately killed by the aerial bombing.
On the 24th of the same month, the mechanics official of the “Guardians of Religion” organization was killed after being targeted on the Binnish road, eastern Idlib, according to what was published by some “jihadist” accounts via “Telegram.”
Independent “jihadists” among the targeted ones
The targeting of the ICF’s drones was not limited to the “Guardians of Religion” or the IS organization. On 13 August, it targeted “Abu Yahya al-Uzbaki,” an independent military instructor who worked in training alongside Abu Ahmed al-Jazairi, killed by the ICF in 2019.
On 14 September, the former leader in the IS organization, then in the “al-Nusra Front” and the “Jund al-Aqsa,” the military trainer “Abu Abdul Rahman the Tunisian,” along with “Sufaynah the Tunisian,” were killed by a drone airstrike, according to “jihadist” accounts on “Telegram.”
The “Ninja” missiles intended for assassinations were used during most of the targeting operations by drone strikes.
This type of missile was used in the opposition-held areas for the first time when the American intelligence assassinated the second man in the “al Qaeda,” Ahmed Hassan, known as “Abu al-Khair al-Masri, in February 2017, near the al-Mastumah camp in Idlib.
In December 2019, Abu Ahmed al-Muhajir, the elite troops’ trainer in the HTS, was killed in the same way.
The US Wall Street Journal newspaper quoted on 9 May 2019 a number of US officials saying that the US’ “Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has designed special missiles for assassination without the possibility of exploding and harming civilians close to the operation.
These missiles are a modified version of the “Hellfire missiles,” anti-armor weapons developed during the 1980s and were used after the September 11 attacks in the US to target individuals.
The missile has an inert warhead designed to penetrate more than 100 pounds (45.4 kg) of metal, instead of exploding, to kill the target without harming civilians and nearby property.
As for the targeted person, US officials say, the missile, also called the “R9X,” hits like a speeding anvil that fell from the sky.
The US-made “Ninja” missile is equipped with a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks.
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