An explosion is provoked as Syrian soldiers take part in a training session to remove and neutralise unexploded weapons, in the countryside of the capital Damascus, on June 19, 2022. - The shelling and airstrikes responsible for a large part of the Syrian war's half million deaths have decreased in recent years. But explosive remnants laid by all sides in the 11-year-old conflict are causing more deaths in Syria than anywhere else in the world, according to the United Nations. (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)

The United States announced on Tuesday the killing of the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militia in Syria. Maher al-Agal, “one of the five highest-ranking IS leaders,” was killed in a US drone strike near Jindires in the north-west of the country, the US Central Command in Washington said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the man’s death. At the time of the attack, al-Agal was riding a motorcycle near the village of Jindires, US Central Command spokesman Dave Eastburn told AFP. One of his closest associates was seriously injured in the attack.

Little information is available about al-Agal, but the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described him as “the governor of the Islamic State in the eastern Mediterranean”. According to the US Central Command, al-Agal had expanded the IS network outside of Syria and Iraq and had ties to the Ahrar al-Sharkiya group.

The US Treasury Secretary put this group active in northern Syria on his sanctions list a year ago. Ahrar al-Sharkiya committed numerous crimes against the civilian population, especially against Syrian Kurds, the ministry said. The group also ran a prison near Aleppo where hundreds of people were executed.

The US drone attack on al-Agal came five months after the killing of top IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Kuraishi. He was killed in February during a US special forces operation in northern Syria.

In 2014, IS conquered large regions of Syria and Iraq. After the military victory of a US-led international coalition over the so-called caliphate set up by IS, the militia remained active in the region.

“The elimination of these IS leaders will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to plan and execute further global attacks,” the US Central Command said on Tuesday. According to US information, he detonated an explosive vest to avoid arrest.