A senior leader of the self-declared Islamic State has been killed by U.S. special forces during a raid against the terrorist network in Syria, the National Security Council says.
"Last night, at the President's direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces," NSC spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.
Map of Syria/Iraq.
"Umm Sayyaf was captured and is currently in U.S. military detention in Iraq. The operation also led to the freeing of a young Yezidi woman who appears to have been held as a slave by the couple. We intend to reunite her with her family as soon as feasible," she said, adding that no U.S. personnel were killed in the operation.
In a similar statement released by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Abu Sayyaf is described as having been involved in the military operations for the group and in the Islamic State's illicit oil, gas and financial operations.
Umm Sayyaf is believed to have "played an important role in [ISIS'] terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night," Carter said.
"The operation represents another significant blow to" the Islamic State, Carter said. "[And] it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies."
Speaking on Weekend Edition Saturday, Tom Bowman, NPR's Pentagon correspondent, getting Abu Sayyaf is "a pretty big win, but not one of the top four" ISIS leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Tom says the raid involved the U.S. Army's Delta Force and was backed by Chinook CH-47 and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
"Sources say that it took several hours and involved a gunfight. A dozen or so ISIS members were killed at a residential building," he says.
Officials tried to capture Abu Sayaff but said he fought back and was killed in the operation, Tom says.
[An earlier version of this story said the raid had been conducted by a U.S. Navy SEAL team. It was carried out by U.S. Army special operations.]