US Reaper drones ‘harassed’ by Russian aircraft kill top ISIS leader in Syria

MQ-9 Reaper flying. Credit: BlueBarronPhoto /

Three MQ-9 Reaper drones were able to carry out a successful airstrike that to lead to the death of a senior Islamic State group leader, according to a statement from the US Central Command (CENTCOM).  

Earlier the same day, on July 7, 2023, US Reaper drones were reported to have been “harassed” by Russian fighter jets over Syria.  

The Reaper, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) primarily used by the United States Air Force (USAF), is known for its long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance capabilities and is often referred to as the first “hunter-killer” UAV. 

An anonymous defense official confirmed to ABC News that the targeted Islamic State leader, Usamah al-Muhajir, was killed while riding a motorcycle in the Aleppo region. The region, which is under Syrian government control and supported by Russian military operations, has been the location of previous US strikes against terrorist leaders. 

According to CENTCOM there “are no indications that any civilians were killed in this strike”, adding that US officials were currently “assessing reports of a civilian injury”. 

“We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, commander of US CENTCOM, in a statement. “ISIS remains a threat, not only to the region but well beyond.” 

Previously, in June 2023, the commander of the US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) expressed concern that repeated Russian provocations in the Middle East might divert US attention away from counterterrorism efforts. 

Despite these complications, the US military was able to successfully execute the strike leading to the death of the high-ranking terrorist figure. CENTCOM also emphasized that its operations against ISIS, in partnership with partner forces in Iraq and Syria, will continue. 

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