OAN’s Brooke Mallory
11:35 AM – Sunday, July 9, 2023
According to the Defense Department, an American drone attack in Syria killed an Islamic State group leader just hours after the same MQ-9 Reaper drones were harassed by Russian military planes over the western portion of the country.
Three Reapers were reportedly flying overhead looking for the jihadist leader on Friday when they were “harassed” for almost two hours by Russian aircraft, according to U.S. Central Command. Shortly after, the drones attacked and killed Usamah al-Muhajir, who had been riding a motorcycle in the Aleppo region.
According to the official, al-Muhajir was in northwest Syria at the time of the hit, although he often worked in the east.
The United States Central Command said in a statement on Sunday that there is no evidence that any other nearby civilians were killed in the strike.
It is still unclear how the U.S. military established that the individual killed was al-Muhajir, and no additional information regarding the target’s discovery was provided to the press.
Friday was the third day in a row that U.S. officials reported a Russian fighter plane was in the vicinity and was flying dangerously close to American drones.
According to Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, during the Friday incident, the Russian planes “flew 18 unprofessional close passes that caused the MQ-9s to react to avoid unsafe situations.”
The first incident occurred early on Wednesday when a Kremlin military craft reportedly “engaged in unsafe and unprofessional behavior” at the same time three U.S. MG-9 drones were planning a mission against IS, the American military claimed.
They also said on Thursday that Russian fighter planes flew “incredibly unsafe and unprofessionally” against both French and U.S. aircraft over Syria.
According to Col. Michael Andrews, spokesperson for Air Force Central Command, the Thursday encounter lasted about an hour and involved close fly-bys by one SU-34 and one SU-35, which deployed flares straight into the MQ-9.
U.S. authorities said that the drones were unarmed in previous flights but were armed on Friday when pursuing al-Muhajir.
“We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region,” said Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command.
The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria’s leader, Rear Adm. Oleg Gurinov, said this week that the Russian and Syrian forces had begun a six-day joint training session that would finish on Monday.
Gurinov gave his remarks through a broadcast by Syrian state media, saying that Moscow was concerned about the U.S.-led coalition’s drone flights over northern Syria, calling them “systematic violations of protocols” aimed to avoid conflicts between the two militaries.
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