The leader of the Islamic State terror group (IS, outlawed in Russia) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a special operation carried out by United States troops, US President Donald Trump announced. According to him, the terrorist was cornered in the Barisha village in Syria’s Idlib province, close to the Turkish border.
Meanwhile, the Russian military has actually rejected Trump’s claim. Russia’s top military brass does not have reliable information on another operation to eliminate al-Baghdadi, the defence ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. He pointed out that “yet another” al-Baghdadi death had no impact on the situation in Syria because the Syrian army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Force, had defeated IS.
Trump’s statement was aimed, first and foremost, at his domestic audience, said Assistant Professor at the Higher School of Economics Leonid Isayev.
“In early October, he announced the US troop pullout from northeastern Syria in a move to fulfill one of his major election promises,” he said.
“And now, less than a month later, he is talking about redeploying troops from Iraq to eastern Syria to protect oil fields – formally, from the IS, but in fact, from [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad. It means that on the one hand, the US has no interests left in Syria because IS has been defeated, but on the other hand, Washington needs a reason to stay there and control the oil fields,” the expert noted. This is why al-Baghdadi’s death comes in handy: It is a milestone in the fight against the Islamic State, which only highlights the remaining threat, Isayev added.
Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov, in turn, said that the IS leader’s death did not really matter to the group’s future.
“Actually, it doesn’t exist anymore. As a military and political organisation, the Islamic State has been destroyed both in Syria and Iraq,” Dolgov explained.
“The units and sleeper cells that still remain don’t pose a threat as they are unlikely to revive IS. The killing of al-Baghdadi is more important as a symbol indicating the group’s defeat.”
Meanwhile, the consequences of the tactical withdrawal of US forces from certain parts of Syria saw the first clashes between Damascus’ forces and Turkish army units have been recorded.
This first fighting between the Syrian army and Turkish forces was registered in northeastern Syria.
On Oct 9, Turkey declared the start of Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria. The goal of the military campaign is to create a buffer zone there, which is going to serve as a security belt for Turkey’s border. According to Ankara’s plans, Turkey would enable Syrian refugees to return there. However, Damascus blasted the operation as an act of aggression, and the global community denounced Ankara’s incursion.
On Oct 13, Damascus had sent its army to northern Syria with the consent of the Kurds to help put up resistance to the Turkish army. During the next several days, the Syrian army occupied some cities and communities located in Kurdish areas without a fight, including al-Tabqah, Manbij, Raqqa and Kobani. On Oct 17, Syrian army units approached the border with Turkey. And then the clashes occur soon after the death of the IS leader. TASS