A US special forces helicopter raid deep into Syria’s desert has killed Islamic State’s finance minister.
A large squad of Delta force commandos landed from four helicopters that were being shadowed by two fighter jets in the desert west of the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in daylight on Sunday afternoon.
On Tuesday the Pentagon confirmed that a senior Isis leader had been killed in a shoot-out. At least one other fighter also died.
That leader had earlier been identified to The Times by local activists as Abu Anas al-Iraqi, the group’s finance minister. His identity was later confirmed by Pentagon sources to reporters in Washington.
Al-Iraqi was not well known but had been cited by Isis propaganda and was said to be on the group’s Shura council.
Pentagon officials said that he was travelling on the road west of Deir Ezzor, which leads to Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis.
Helicopter squads were used in the raid rather than a drone or other missile strike because they had hoped to catch al-Iraqi alive.
As the holder of the purse strings he would have had access to many of the group’s secrets, including its possible financing of terrorist networks in Europe or elsewhere.
It was the fourth US-led special forces raid to take place behind Isis lines. The first was an attempt to rescue western hostages, including journalists and aid workers, held by a gang known to their captives as “The Beatles” in July 2014, which failed as the group had just been moved.
The second, in May 2015, killed Abu Sayyaf, the group’s oil “minister”, and captured his wife.
The third raid, last March, killed Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known Haji Imam, who was said to be a deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis.