US Military Captures Key ISIS Operative in Helicopter Raid in Syria

U.S. military forces have captured a key ISIS 'facilitator' in a helicopter raid in northern Syria.
US Military Captures Key ISIS Operative in Helicopter Raid in Syria
CH-47 Chinook helicopters take off while transporting troops from a remote combat outpost in northeastern Syria on May 24, 2021. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

The U.S. military, aided by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, captured a key operative of the ISIS terrorist group during a helicopter raid in northern Syria.

In a Sept. 30 statement, U.S. Central Command (CENCTOM)—the military component that oversees operations in the Middle East and central and south Asia—announced that Mamduh Ibrahim al-Haji Shaykh, a suspected ISIS "facilitator," had been captured in a helicopter raid.

“USCENTCOM remains committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Lt. Col. Troy Garlock, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement.

The ISIS facilitator also goes by the name Abu Youssef, according to the SDF media team, which described him as one of the "key facilitators" of terror activity and as "actively involved in enabling ISIS terrorist cells in the region."

The joint operation, which took place on Sept. 28, targeted an unspecified location west of Raqqa, Syria, where the "terrorist Abu Youssef was hiding," the SDF stated.

No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, according to CENTCOM.

Despite being defeated in Syria in 2019, the ISIS terror group still has sleeper cells that are able to carry out deadly attacks that have killed dozens of people over the past year.

The United States has hundreds of troops in Syria focused on countering what remains of the ISIS terror network.

Other ISIS Operatives Captured

The capture of Abu Youssef follows another helicopter raid in Syria on Sept. 23 in which a high-ranking member of ISIS was taken into custody.

CENTCOM recently stated that it had captured Abu Halil al-Fad’ani, a suspected ISIS operational and facilitation official.

Mr. al-Fad’ani had relationships throughout the ISIS terror network in the region, according to CENTCOM.

“The capture of ISIS officials like al-Fad’ani increases our ability to locate, target, and remove terrorists from the battlefield,” Lt. Col. Garlock said in a statement.

SDF forces also took part in the raid that led to the apprehension of Mr. al-Fad'ani.

"Interrogations are now underway, focusing on his involvement in crimes against our people and his orchestrations of terrorist activities across several nations," the SDF media team said in a statement.

Counter-ISIS Mission

U.S. forces have been deployed in parts of Iraq and Syria since 2014 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the official name for the U.S. military mission to defeat ISIS.

About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and about 900 remain in Syria as part of the ongoing military mission.

At its height, ISIS asserted territorial claims over large portions of northern and western Iraq and northeast Syria. Operation Inherent Resolve has worked to degrade the terrorist group and hunt down its leadership.

While Operation Inherent Resolve has gone after ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the group has spread to other parts of the world. The terrorist group's Afghanistan branch, known as ISIS-Khorasan, carried out a suicide bombing in Kabul on Aug. 26, 2021, killing 13 U.S. service members and dozens of civilians as the United States conducted evacuation operations from the country.

At a White House press briefing, Ms. Jean-Pierre told reporters that U.S. intelligence officials had alerted the Biden administration to the smuggling network and that the administration "successfully disrupted it."

Ms. Jean-Pierre didn't specify whether U.S. officials had tracked down the people this ISIS-linked smuggler had helped move into the country, but she said there were no indications that any of those people had any connections to terrorist activity.

Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.