An Islamic State group leader in Syria was killed by a U.S. drone strike, following a series of confrontations between Russian military jets and the same drones, as reported by the Defense Department.

According to a U.S. defense official, three MQ-9 Reaper drones were conducting a search operation on Friday when they were harassed by Russian aircraft for approximately two hours. Shortly after the incident, the drones successfully targeted and eliminated Usamah al-Muhajir, who was riding a motorcycle in the Aleppo region. The official, speaking anonymously due to the sensitive nature of the operation, revealed that al-Muhajir, although typically active in the east, was present in northwest Syria at the time of the strike.

The U.S. military has not provided specific details regarding the verification of al-Muhajir’s identity. However, the official statement released by U.S. Central Command on Sunday emphasized that no civilians were believed to have been killed in the strike, although reports of a potential civilian injury were being assessed.

This incident marked the third consecutive day in which Russian fighter jets engaged in unsafe and harassing behavior towards American drones operating in the region. Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, condemned the Russian planes for their unprofessional conduct, citing 18 close passes that forced the MQ-9 drones to take evasive measures to ensure safety.

The initial friction occurred on Wednesday, when Russian military aircraft engaged in unsafe behavior while three American MQ-9 drones were on a mission against IS. The following day, Russian fighter aircraft exhibited similarly unsafe and unprofessional conduct towards French and U.S. aircraft over Syria.

Col. Michael Andrews, spokesperson for Air Forces Central Command, described the Thursday incident as lasting nearly an hour and involving close fly-bys by an SU-34 and an SU-35, during which flares were deployed directly towards the MQ-9 drones.

During Friday’s encounter, the drones were armed as they actively pursued al-Muhajir, in contrast to the unarmed status in previous flights.

Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, reiterated the commitment to defeating ISIS in the region and emphasized the resolve of the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Oleg Gurinov, head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, announced a joint training exercise between Russian and Syrian militaries, scheduled to conclude on Monday. Gurinov expressed concern over the flights of drones by the U.S.-led coalition in northern Syria, labeling them as “systematic violations of protocols” intended to prevent clashes between the two forces.


Featured Image, Wiki Commons

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