U.S. military forces have killed a top member of the Islamic State during an operation in eastern Syria, the White House announced Saturday morning.
The raid, authorized by President Obama, was carried out Friday night in al-Amr by U.S. forces stationed in Iraq, said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan in a statement. Iraqi authorities were aware of the operation.
Abu Sayyaf, a senior leader in the terrorist organization, was killed "when he engaged U.S. forces" during the raid, according to the statement. His wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured and is being held in U.S. detention in Iraq.
The White House said U.S. forces freed a young Yazidi woman, who officials believe was held as a slave by the couple, and said it intends to reunite her with her family "as soon as feasible."
No U.S. troops were killed or injured during the raid.
"As commander in chief, the president is grateful to the brave U.S. personnel who carried out this complex mission as well as the Iraqi authorities for their support of the operation and for the use of their facilities, which contributed to its success," the White House said.
The White House statement said Abu Sayyaf had "a senior role" in overseeing the Islamic State's "illicit oil and gas operations" and military actions. A senior U.S. official told ABC News that the operative was believed to be behind the kidnapping of American hostages.
Meehan said officials believe his wife to have "played an important role" in the terrorist group.
A Pentagon spokesman told The Guardian Saturday morning that Umm Sayyaf will not be transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
"No one's going to Gitmo," Colonel Steve Warren said.
On Friday, Islamic State fighters seized the government headquarters in the city of Ramadi, a stronghold of the Iraqi government, seriously setting back the Iraqi military's efforts to stanch the group's power. After the attack on Ramadi, Vice President Joe Biden called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reassure him of "continued and expedited U.S. security assistance to confront" Islamic State militants, including the delivery of heavy weaponry and other supplies for the Iraqi military.
The operation that killed Abu Sayyaf comes less than a month after the White House revealed that two al-Qaida hostages—including American Warren Weinstein—had accidentally been killed by U.S. forces in a January drone strike, along with two American al-Qaida operatives.
Since August 2014, the United States has carried out thousands of air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, destroying dozens of military outposts, buildings, and weapons.
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