Abu Sayyaf

Abu Sayyaf (“bearer of the sword”)Gordon Lubold, “U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-special-forces-kill-senior-isis-leader-in-syria-capture-wife-1431780812. was reportedly a senior ISIS leader involved in the group’s oil and gas operations as well as its military missions. Sayyaf reportedly had special knowledge of the group’s hostage operations, and may have been in contact with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Barbara Starr, Laura Smith-Spark and Ray Sanchez, “Abu Sayyaf, key ISIS figure in Syria, killed in U.S. raid,” CNN, May 17, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/16/middleeast/syria-isis-us-raid/. He was not a publicly well-known member of ISIS. According to an unnamed U.S. official, Abu Sayyaf is the alias for Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi.Barbara Starr and Kevin Conlon, “U.S. names ISIS commander killed in raid,” CNN, May 19, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/19/us/isis-abu-sayyaf-name/.

The New York Times has called Abu Sayyaf a “midlevel leader in the organization” and noted that one terrorism analyst compared him to “Al Capone’s accountant.”Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “ISIS Official Killed in U.S. Raid in Syria, Pentagon Says,” New York Times, May 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/world/middleeast/abu-sayyaf-isis-commander-killed-by-us-forces-pentagon-says.html?_r=0. The newspaper wrote that although Abu Sayyaf was “not a well-known figure, he was important … for who and what he knew about [ISIS’s] hierarchy and operations.” Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “ISIS Official Killed in U.S. Raid in Syria, Pentagon Says,” New York Times, May 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/world/middleeast/abu-sayyaf-isis-commander-killed-by-us-forces-pentagon-says.html?_r=0. Media outlets by and large believe that the United States prioritized its raid against Abu Sayyaf in order to extract sensitive information about the group.Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “ISIS Official Killed in U.S. Raid in Syria, Pentagon Says,” New York Times, May 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/world/middleeast/abu-sayyaf-isis-commander-killed-by-us-forces-pentagon-says.html?_r=0; Barbara Starr, Laura Smith-Spark and Ray Sanchez, “Abu Sayyaf, key ISIS figure in Syria, killed in U.S. raid,” CNN, May 17, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/16/middleeast/syria-isis-us-raid/. According to a report by CNN, the fact that the U.S. was willing to put military personnel at risk in a ground operation rather than order a drone strike indicates that Abu Sayyaf was a valuable intelligence target.Barbara Starr, Laura Smith-Spark and Ray Sanchez, “Abu Sayyaf, key ISIS figure in Syria, killed in U.S. raid,” CNN, May 17, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/16/middleeast/syria-isis-us-raid/.

Abu Sayyaf was killed by U.S. Special Forces in a night raid on May 16, 2015 at Al-Amr, in eastern Syria.Gordon Lubold, “U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-special-forces-kill-senior-isis-leader-in-syria-capture-wife-1431780812. Members of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force were met by fierce resistance by Abu Sayyaf’s men, including hand-to-hand combat.“U.S. Troops Fight ‘Hand-to-Hand’ in Syria Raid,” Daily Beast, May 16, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/16/u-s-troops-fought-hand-to-hand-in-syria-raid.html?via=mobile&source=twitter. During the mission, Abu Sayyaf’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured alive and detained for interrogation. She is believed to be an active member of the organization.Gordon Lubold, “U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-special-forces-kill-senior-isis-leader-in-syria-capture-wife-1431780812. Before the U.S. Department of Defense announced Abu Sayyaf’s death, he was largely unknown to monitors of the extremist group.Barbara Starr, Laura Smith-Spark and Ray Sanchez, “Abu Sayyaf, key ISIS figure in Syria, killed in U.S. raid,” CNN, May 17, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/16/middleeast/syria-isis-us-raid/.

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