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Abu Sayyaf was the nom de guerre of a senior leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who was described as overseeing gas and oil operations.[1] United States authorities identified Abu Sayyaf's real name as Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi.[2] Abu Sayyaf was killed on the night of May 15–16, 2015 while resisting capture during a United States Army Delta Force operation in eastern Syria.[3]


The operation was conducted to try to capture him and his wife on suspicion of their involvement in, or "deep knowledge" of, Islamic State hostage operations. Kayla Mueller is reported to have been a "personal captive" of Abu Sayyaf.[4] No U.S. soldiers were killed or injured during the operation.[5]

It was the first direct action ground raid targeting the militant group by U.S. soldiers inside Syria. (a previous U.S. ground operation in Syria was a rescue mission). Items, including several terabytes of data from laptops, cellphones and other material, were recovered from the scene and exploited for intelligence purposes.[6][7][8] More information was collected in the raid than any other in United States special operations forces history.[9] Among the objects found there are archaeological finds, which prove the involvement of IS in illicit antiquities trade.[10] The operation was launched from Iraq, with the "full consent of Iraqi authorities."[11]

A senior administration official said that the administration had assessed it likely that Abu Sayyaf was in direct contact with Islamic State leader and self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[12]

Abu Sayyaf's wife, known by the nom de guerre "Umm Sayyaf" and said to be an ISIL member, was captured during the operation. A young Yazidi woman who appeared to be held as a slave of the couple was freed.[1][11]

A senior administration official told CNN that Abu Sayyaf was a Tunisian citizen.[3] Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher on ISIL and security threats, said that al-Jabouri was "a close associate of chief ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani."[3]


  1. ^ a b Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Counter-ISIL Operation in Syria, U.S. Department of Defense, May 16, 2015
  2. ^ Starr, Barbara; Conlon, Kevin (May 19, 2015). "U.S. names ISIS commander killed in raid". CNN. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Barbara Starr, Laura Smith-Spark & Ray Sanc, Abu Sayyaf, key ISIS figure in Syria, killed in U.S. raid, CNN (May 17, 2015).
  4. ^ Naylor, Sean (May 22, 2015). "Exclusive: American Hostage Passed on Chance to Escape". Foreign Policy. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  5. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Back to the ground?, Israel Hayom, November 8, 2015.
  6. ^ "U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife", The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2015
  7. ^ "Hearing on U.S. Strategy in the Middle East", C-SPAN, October 28, 2015
  8. ^ "A Raid on ISIS Yields a Trove of Intelligence", The New York Times, June 8, 2015
  9. ^ "Coalition Efforts Against ISIL", United States Department of State, November 20, 2015
  10. ^ "ISIL Leader's Loot Photo Gallery - Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs".
  11. ^ a b "Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on Counter-ISIL Operation in Syria",, May 16, 2015, archived from the original on 2017-01-22 – via National Archives, We suspect that Umm Sayyaf is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in the enslavement of the young woman rescued last night.
  12. ^ "Slain ISIS Leader Abu Sayyaf Was a Little-Known, but High-Value Target", NBC News, May 16, 2015