A “JV team” threat…
Shaken by a daring U.S. military strike deep in ISIS territory, supporters of the extremist organization were vowing revenge for the killing of senior leader Abu Sayyaf or claiming the special operations mission never took place, a Vocativ analysis reveals.
“If they took Abu Sayyaf, we will take Obama,” one ISIS supporter posted in the hours after the raid near the eastern Syrian city of al-Amr.
Translation: If your goal is killing Abu Sayyaf then our goal is killing Obama and the worshipers of the cross. We have attacks coming against you.
Elite American commandos carried out the rare, overnight military operation, killing Sayyaf, capturing his wife, and freeing a Yezidi woman believed to have been held as their slave, the Pentagon said Saturday. Defense Secretary Ash Carter heralded the mission as a “significant blow” to the Islamic State.
Vocativ analyzed social media across Syria in the wake of the strike and discovered some ISIS supporters claimed the news was U.S. propaganda timed to counter ISIS momentum after taking most of the Iraqi city of Ramadi this week. Others tweeted from outside the Syrian city of Raqqa vowing revenge for the strike, saying they heard explosions and helicopters.
Carter said Sayyaf was responsible for directing many of the group’s military activities and funding, directing its “illicit oil, gas, and financial operation.” No U.S. forces were killed or injured during the operation, which represented “another significant blow” to the group, Carter said. “And it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies,” he continued in the statement.
The mission included the arrest of Sayyaf’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, and the freeing of the Yezidi woman. The trading of Yezidi women has been a major inducement and reward for ISIS fighters in the past. The Yezidis follow a strand of Islam that is rejected by mainstream Muslims as heretical. ISIS last year surrounded the Yezidis’ villages in northern Iraq, killing and capturing dozens, and taking many of the girls and women as slaves.
“U.S. forces captured Umm Sayyaf, who we suspect is a member of ISIS, played an important role in ISIS’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night,” Carter said.
The White House said in a statement that Umm Sayyaf had been moved to a U.S. military detention facility in Iraq. The Yezidi woman would be freed. “We intend to reunite her with her family as soon as feasible,” Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The operation was coordinated with Iraqi officials, but “the U.S. government did not coordinate with the Syrian regime, nor did we advise them in advance of this operation,” Ms. Meehan said.
According to reports, a team of the Army’s Delta Force troops traveled in Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey aircraft into al-Amr in eastern Syria. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed defense official who said a firefight broke out after the troops touched down near a building where Abu Sayyaf was believed to be, and that ISIS fighters tried to use women and children as human shields.
“It was a real fight,” the official told the Post, saying there was hand-to-hand fighting and “about a dozen militants were killed.” He told the Post that troops collected items that might prove useful intelligence.