The Syrian army killed who they believe to be the War Minister of the Islamic State militant group in operations just east of Aleppo, Syrian military officials said Wednesday.
The commander, Abu Musab al-Masri, was killed in operations on May 10, and was named among 13 other senior ISIS officials killed by the Syrian army in the region near Aleppo.
If confirmed, Masri’s death would represent a “significant blow to the group ahead of the battle of Raqqa,” according to Baghdad-based ISIS expert, Hisham al-Hashimi. He added that al-Masri is the fourth most senior member of the ISIS organization.
American forces, who are also trying to expel the Islamic State from Syrian cities such as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, committed its latest blunder with an airstrike over al-Barouda, a village in the Raqqa Governorate, that killed 16 civilians. The strike wiped out the entire al-Hajj family, which included 5 children.
Around 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters are estimated to remain in Raqqa, the self-proclaimed caliphate’s “capital” city.
While the Americans and the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrians ostensibly share the same goal of knocking ISIS out of its urban centers of power, cooperation is still nowhere to be found between the two camps.
Just last week an American warplane bombed a Shia militia tank convoy allied with the Syrian government, drawing condemnation from the Syrians and Russians. The militia, ironically, is a de facto American ally just miles to the east, in Iraq, where it assists the U.S. push to rid the country of the Islamic State. In Syria, however, American forces have tried to scuttle any gains by the Syrians in the east of the country, where U.S.-trained fighters do much of the work on the ground.
Though outright cooperation remains at an all time low, communication between U.S. and Russian warplanes has increased as rebel militants lose territory and the airspace over combat zones becomes more crowded.
“We have had to increase the amount of de-confliction work we are doing with the Russians given the tighter airspace that we are now working ourselves through,” said Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, the head of the U.S. Air Force in the Middle East.
The U.S. and Russia agreed to establish a “de-confliction” line in 2015 in an attempt to avoid accidental clashes in Syrian skies. Fortunately, the two countries are making use of it.
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