A United States drone strike killed a senior al-Qaeda leader in Suluk, near the Turkish-controlled Tal Abyad area in northern Syria on Friday.
“We have no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike, which was conducted using an MQ-9 aircraft,” the United States Central Command confirmed in a statement on Friday.
The same statement identified the targeted al-Qaeda leader as Abdul Hamid al-Matar and pointed out that the group “uses Syria as a safe haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations.”
An article on the Kurdistan 24 news agency in Iraqi Kurdistan pointed out that “Suluk is allegedly under the control of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, a group backed by Turkey.”
Turkey has occupied swathes of northeastern Syria since it launched a cross-border military operation, codenamed Peace Spring, against the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in October 2019. This includes the Tal Abyad area.
The U.S. has sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya for human rights violations against Kurds and for recruiting former members of the Islamic State (ISIS) group, Kurdistan 24 reported.
The report also noted that unidentified drone strikes have previously targeted ISIS leaders in Turkish-occupied parts of Syria. One example, from May 2020, saw a former ISIS leader killed in a drone strike in the northwestern Turkish-occupied Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, which Turkey invaded in 2018 with the help of its Syrian militia proxies.