Middle East Turmoil

ISIS leader killed, wife captured by US forces in Syrian firefight


U.S. military forces conducted an operation late Friday in Syria that resulted in the killing of a senior leader of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

A firefight between U.S. commandos and ISIS forces left Abu Sayyaf dead and his wife Umm Sayyaf in U.S. custody, according to the White House. For more than a year, ISIS has been a brutal and implacable foe of governments across the Western world and the Middle East, while serving as a driving force for sectarian instability within Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Sayyaf had a "senior role in overseeing ISIS's illicit oil and gas operations—a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization," said Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson.

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Sayyaf was also involved in ISIS's military activities, Meehan added. No U.S. personnel were killed or injured during this operation.

Sayyaf's wife is currently in U.S. military detention in Iraq, the launching pad for the military operation.

On social media, ISIS sympathizers vowed retaliation for Sayyaf's death, with one supporter taking to social media to declare the terror outfit would "take" U.S. President Barack Obama in retribution.

The operation also led to the freeing of a young Yezidi woman who appears to have been held as a slave by the couple, according to the White House.

"We intend to reunite her with her family as soon as feasible," said Meehan.

The operation comes as ISIS has gained ground in Iraq, having seized control of the government compound in Ramadi, and the latest in a series of offensives that have roiled the country since last year. Government officials and analysts have long asserted that ISIS has been able to exploit Iraq and Syria's porous borders, in order to foment conflict in both countries.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated so badly that the U.S. government vowed to expedite weapons shipments and other supplies there. Some fear that ISIS's campaign will result in a virtual partitioning of the country, already sharply divided by sectarian conflict.