Setbacks for Extremists in Syria, Tunisia

Setbacks for Extremists in Syria, TunisiaSetbacks for Extremists in Syria, Tunisia

Two senior Islamic State leaders were killed in an airstrike in northeastern Syria on Monday, while three leaders of an Al-Qaeda-linked group blamed for a spate of violence in Tunisia have been killed in a raid by security forces, in major setbacks against insurgent groups in the region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers its information from an activist network on the ground, identified IS leaders in Syria as an Iraqi, Abu Osama al-Iraqi, and a Syrian named Amer al-Rafdan, Reuters reported.

The observatory said the airstrike was believed to have been carried out by the US-led coalition that is targeting IS in Syria and Iraq, though Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the observatory, said he could not be sure.

The Syrian Army and militia fighting alongside it are mounting a separate campaign against IS in the region that borders Turkey to the north and Iraq to the east.

The insurgent group is fighting in Hasaka Province against both pro-government forces and Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters who have received air support from the US-led coalition.

US President Barack Obama said last week the coalition was intensifying its campaign in northern Syria. The Kurdish militias have made a series of advances against IS militants in the north, including the capture of the town of Tel Abyad at the Turkish border.

Abdulrahman said al-Iraqi had the title of “governor” of the province IS had declared in northeastern Syria. Rafdan had previously served as IS’ governor of Deir Al-Zor Province, he said.

The extremist group last year declared a cross-border “caliphate” claiming to rule over all Muslims.

 Al-Qaeda Weakened

Three senior members of an Al-Qaeda affiliate who were reportedly behind recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia were killed last week by Tunisia’s security forces, the country’s interior minister said in a statement.

“The operation carried out on Friday by our security forces in cooperation with the army in the region of Gafsa resulted in the elimination of five dangerous terrorists, including three senior leaders” of the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigades, Najem Gharsalli told a news conference.

The three were named as Tunisian nationals Mourad Gharsalli and Hakim Hazi and Algerian national Lounis Abou Fath. The other two people killed have not yet been identified.

A Tunisian government spokesman had previously announced Mourad Gharsalli’s death on Saturday.

Abou Fath had been wanted by Algerian authorities since 1994, Tunisia’s interior minister said.

Authorities have blamed the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigades, Tunisia’s main militant group, for a series of attacks, including the March massacre at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman. The IS claimed that attack.

Tunisia has seen a surge in extremist attacks since veteran president Zine el Abidine ben Ali was ousted in a 2011 revolution.

Dozens of members of the security forces have been killed since then in militant attacks.

In a string of blows to militant groups in the region, an American airstrike killed the top-ranking IS commander in Afghanistan and Pakistan last Friday, the Afghanistan intelligence service said.

Hafeez Saeed was one of more than 30 militants killed in a US strike Friday night in Nangarhar Province.