April 21 (UPI) -- The Pentagon said Friday that a U.S.-led military operation in Syria earlier this month killed a top Islamic State associate who was involved in planning the deadly terror attack in Turkey on New Year's Eve.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas (USAF) said operative Abdurakhmon Uzbeki died in an airstrike near al Mayadin, Syria, during the first week of April.
"Uzbeki facilitated the movement of Islamic State foreign terror fighters and funds, and he also played a key role in ISIS's external terror-attack plotting," Thomas said Friday. "He facilitated the high-profile attack in Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve."
Thirty-nine people died at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on December 31 in an attack carried out by the terror group known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. Thomas said Uzbeki has been "clearly linked" to the plot and was a close associate of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"He was known to interact with him in various ways over time," he said.
Thomas said the April 6 strike was aimed specifically at eliminating Uzbeki.
"We have a campaign against the leaders of ISIS," he said. "You can look through the history of strikes and think we have a pretty good record of finding these folks and killing them."
The Pentagon has not deployed any general ground forces in Syria, which continues to be a major battleground in the six-year civil war and the fight against the Islamic State, but it has led a coalition of fighters in the country against militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A limited number of special forces troops have operated in and around Syria, but Thomas did not say Friday whether the Expeditionary Targeting Force -- which might include members of the U.S. Army's Delta Force -- was involved in the strike. The ETF was created in 2015 under Barack Obama's administration to carry out certain operations in Syria.