US Drone Strike Kills ISIL Syria Leader

After the recent successful capture of Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi in the Aleppo region of Syria, US forces U.S. Central Command announced that a drone strike had killed the leader of ISIL in Syria, Maher al-Agal.

This time the target of the 12 July, 2022 strike was located near a village called Khaltan in Jandaris, northwest Syria. A second ISIL member, thus far unidentified by CENTCOM was listed as seriously wounded in the strike. Local sources later claimed that tis second man had died from his wounds. Both men were travelling on a motorcycle without any security element likely in an attempt to minimise their signature to watching ISR assets.

Locally sourced image of the remains of the motorcycle the pair had been riding.

Imagery shared on Twitter by locals indicates that a conventional Hellfire AGM-114R (Romeo) was deployed rather than the R9X- the ‘Flying Ginsu’ which employs pop-out blades rather than high explosive to limit collateral damage. The R9X is more typically employed against ISIL high value targets in Syria so the use of a conventional Romeo Hellfire may indicate a time sensitive target which was engaged by a non-CIA or JSOC drone. It may also simply be that the explosive warhead was selected as offering a greater chance of eliminating the small, assumedly fast-moving, target.    

Local image of Hellfire casing at the site of the strike.

President Biden remarked that “…(his) death in Syria takes a key terrorist off the field and significantly degrades the ability of ISIS to plan, resource and conduct their operations in the region.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that al-Agal had been hiding out in northwestern Syria under the protection of the Turkish sponsored Ahrar al-Sharqiya militia.

The strike on al-Agal, was yet another in a string of highly successful operations against senior ISIL figures in Syria this year. Al-Kurdi, captured in June, was also known the Wali (governor) of Aleppo, and was described by CENTCOM as “… an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator.” JSOC’s Task Force 9 also successfully targeted al-Baghdadi’s successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi (aka Haji Abdullah), in February this year.