American Ground Op in Syria Kills Close Associate of ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi, U.S. Says

Abdurakhmon Uzbeki is believed to be linked to Turkey New Years Eve nightclub attack that killed 39

The attacker shooting his way inside the nightclub in Istanbul, early Sunday, January 1, 2017.
An ISIS gunman shooting his way inside the Istanbul nightclub Reina, January 1, 2017 Screenshot

The United States disclosed on Friday a secret military ground operation to kill an Islamic State operative seen as a close associate of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and who was linked to an attack on a Turkish nightclub that killed 39 people, including 18-year old Israeli Leanne Nasser.

Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who was believed to be from Uzbekistan, was killed during the ground assault near Mayadin, Syria, on April 6, said Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command. 

"It was a ground operation. I think that's all we're willing to say about that," Thomas said, declining further comment. He specified that Uzbeki did not die in an airstrike.

Thomas said Uzbeki helped facilitate the attack on the exclusive Istanbul nightclub Reina in Istanbul on New Year's Eve. Islamic State claimed credit for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria. 

The attacker opened fire with an automatic rifle, throwing stun grenades to allow himself to reload and shooting the wounded on the ground. Among those killed in the attack were Turks and visitors from several Arab nations, India and Canada. 

"We have clearly linked him with the New Year's Eve Istanbul bombing," Thomas said.