WASHINGTON (AP) — A coalition airstrike in Syria has killed a senior Islamic State leader, who has been responsible for moving fighters and weapons from Libya to Syria, the Pentagon said Thursday.
A senior U.S. official said that Tariq bin Tahar al-‘Awni al-Harzi, a Tunisian, and another fighter with him were killed by a U.S. drone strike and that there were no reports of any civilian casualties in the operation. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, al-Harzi was killed June 16 in Shaddadi. He said that al-Harzi coordinated the use of suicide bombing attacks in Iraq, and helped with the movement of foreign fighters back and force across the Syria-Iraq border.
Davis said al-Harzi’s death will hurt the Islamic State’s ability to move foreign fighters in and out of the region.
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According to the military joint task force coordinating the operations in Iraq and Syria, there were airstrikes at four locations in Syria that day, including two near Al Hasakah, which is near Shaddadi. The strikes near al Hasakah hit an Islamic State tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle and two antenna arrays.
Last September, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed economic sanctions on al-Harzi and seven other individuals that it said have helped finance or facilitate the movement of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State and the Nusra Front. Both groups have been targeted by coalition strikes in Syria.
Treasury officials designated al-Harzi a global terrorist, saying he was based in Syria. The Treasury statement identified him as the Islamic State group’s “amir of suicide bombers,” saying he recruited foreign fighters for suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria.
In a related matter, Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Thursday to talk about the ongoing efforts to defeat Islamic State militants.