JSOC Captures ISIL High Value Target in Syria

Coalition Forces drawn from US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), likely including Delta Force commandos ferried into Syria by helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, have successfully captured an unidentified high value target (HVT) in the Aleppo region overnight on 15-16 June.   

Locally produced video, said to have been filmed during the operation, shows at least two MH-60M Black Hawk medium lift helicopters and two MH-47G Chinook heavy lift helicopters fitted with the distinctive long range refueling probe used by the 160th. There were likely four to six MH-60Ms and a minimum of two to four MH-47Gs committed to the operation.

Based on previous operations, the raid force was likely based around a Delta troop (typically around sixteen to twenty operators to conduct the actual assault), a Ranger Regiment immediate reaction force (likely a reinforced platoon who would also have also been responsible for any blocking positions to isolate the objective) and specialist support elements including dogs and organic explosive ordnance disposal techs.

Although not seen in any of the currently released video, the 160th tends to accompany these raids with a pair of MH-60M Direct Action Penetrators (DAPs) – heavily armed Black Hawk variants able to provide intimate close air support to the assaulters and engage any enemy reaction forces. MQ-9 Reaper UAS are reported to have provided top cover during the mission (the 160th flies its own contingent of Reapers and is thus not dependent on availability of USAF or CIA airframes).

The objective appears to have resided in a town called Haymar (al-Ahmair) in the Aleppo region close to the Turkish border. In fact, the close proximity of the objective to the border would indicate that the US advised Turkey of the raid to deconflict any Turkish response. The region is contested by Turkish backed militias of the Faylaq al-Sham and ISIL remnants.

According to Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the objective was an ISIL leadership figure and master bomb-maker (allegedly known as ‘Mustafa’ according to local reports) who was described by an OIR press release as “… one of the group’s top leaders in Syria”.

There are some local reports that one of the 160th helicopters was damaged by ground fire during the operation, however, this remains unconfirmed and OIR stated definitively that no Coalition Forces were wounded or killed during the assault nor was there “…any damage to Coalition aircraft or assets”.

JSOC have been instrumental in the war against ISIL with Delta still commanding the on-going US presence in Syria. Although best known for the operation which resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of ISIL in October 2019, JSOC have been responsible for a score of high value kill or capture missions including the successful targeting of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi (aka Haji Abdullah), al-Baghdadi’s successor, who also died after detonating a suicide bomb vest in February this year as Delta assaulters closed in.

Header image: File photo (US Army)