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ISIS bomb maker detained in Syria raid, U.S. military says

Gen. Michael E. Kurilla testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing in February. (Susan Walsh/AP)

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — An Islamic State bomb maker who became one of the terrorist organization’s most influential figures in Syria was seized during a raid Thursday, according to the U.S. military.

The operation, said Army Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, “demonstrates our commitment to security of the region and to the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

U.S. officials identified the suspect as Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, whom they said also was known as the “Wali of Raqqa.” Wali is another name for governor. Raqqa is a city in northern Syria that, for a time, was the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

The raid took place in northeast Syria, officials said.

Kurilla, confirmed to his post in February, is traveling throughout Central Asia this month, meeting with American diplomats and foreign counterparts as he familiarizes himself with what has been one of the Pentagon’s highest-profile assignments.

In a news release announcing Thursday’s raid, U.S. officials said no civilians were harmed during the operation and no U.S. personnel suffered casualties.

Although the Islamic State’s command nodule in Syria lacks the potency it once possessed, U.S. forces and their partners in the region have continued to target pockets of the group’s fighters and most senior operatives.

A U.S. raid in February killed the group’s leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, at his hideout in Atma, Syria. The building had been rigged with explosives, which officials believe were detonated after U.S. troops entered the structure. U.S. officials acknowledged that at least two children were killed in the blast, though local first responders and UNICEF counted at least five children dead.

The U.S. military has come under significant criticism in recent months for a history of racking up civilian casualties in operations against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Last month, the Pentagon acknowledged that the military had bungled a 2019 airstrike in Baghuz, Syria, that left civilians — including children — dead alongside individuals deemed to be ISIS fighters.

While military officials cheered the operation to nab Al-Kurdi, they also warned that Islamic State continues to pose a challenge in Syria.

“ISIS continues to present a threat to the U.S. and our partners in the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, Central Command’s spokesman.

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