US Targets ISIS Leadership in Raqqa

US-led coalition aircraft last week killed a major ISIS leader in Raqqa, Syria, severely inhibiting the group’s ability to conduct attacks outside of its so-called caliphate. The strike killed Iraqi-born Abdul Basit al-Iraqi, the group’s emir of Middle East external networks. He reportedly worked to coordinate attacks targeting American, Turkish, and European targets. “He was a key facilitator for ISIL’s external operations routes through Turkey and was responsible for attacks in the Middle East,” coalition spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian said in a Wednesday briefing. He also was connected to reconnaissance, extremist travel, and finances in the region, Dorrian said. “His death degrades and delays ISIL’s current plots against regional targets and deprives them of a capable senior manager who provided oversight over many external attacks,” he said. The Nov. 12 strike is one of many by the coalition that is shaping the fight for Raqqa and helping US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces gain ground inside Syria. SDF is moving to Raqqa on two “converging axes of advance,” and have liberated about 100 square miles. ISIS “considers Raqqa their capital in Syria, so we expect resistance to stiffen as more forces move closer to the city.” (See also: Shaping the Raqqa Battle, But Who Will Lead the Fight)