On Thursday, Pres. Joe Biden and the Pentagon have confirmed that ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had been killed in a “successful” U.S. Special Operations counterterrorism mission conducted in northwest Syria.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, no U.S. casualties have been recorded. Al-Qurayshi detonated a huge number of explosives during the mission, killing himself, his wife, and several of his children according to U.S. officials.
“Thanks to the bravery of our troops this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” Biden stated. “Our forces carried out the operation with their signature preparation and precision and I directed the Department of Defense to take every precaution possible to minimize civilian casualties,” the president went on to say.
“We do know that as our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardice – with no regard to the lives of his own family or others in the building – he chose to blow himself up, not just with the vest, but to blow up that third floor rather than face justice for the crimes he has committed, taking several members of his family with him,” the president added.
According to the Biden administration’s senior officials, planning for the mission that took place on Thursday was on the same level and scale as the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in the country of Pakistan.
According to the officials, Al-Qurayshi doesn’t leave his home and only goes to his rooftop at times to take a bath. He lived on the third floor of his house and relies on delivery services and a lieutenant who lived on the property’s second floor to run his terror network.
Officials also told Fox News that the family residing on the first floor was in no way involved with ISIS and didn’t know the terror group’s leader was living above them.
The said family, which included a 10-day-old baby – fleed from the property when U.S. troops asked them to.
According to the Associated Press, people living in Atmeh, a village in rebel-controlled Idlib Province, said that a large ground assault took place, with U.S. troops using loudspeakers to ask women and children to flee from the area. The residents described the raid as the largest operation that took place since October 2019, which was when the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, too place.
Omar Saleh, a resident of a house near the site of the incident, told the Associated Press that he was sleeping when he felt his doors and windows rattling to the sound of low-flying aircraft. He said this took place at around 1:10 a.m. local time. Saleh mentioned that he ran to open the windows while his lights were off and saw three helicopters flying. Then, he heard a man speak in Arabic through a loudspeaker, asking women to surrender or flee from the area.
“This went on for 45 minutes. There was no response. Then the machine gunfire erupted,” Saleh stated. He also mentioned that the firing went on for two hours while aircraft circled low over the neighborhood.
The place where the operation took place, which is close to the Turkish border, is where several top Al Qaeda members and other militant groups who are still fighting President Bashar Assad reside.
U.S. officials also revealed to Fox News that at least one major explosion happened and that one of the helicopters suffered a maintenance issue and needed to be obliterated on the ground.
According to residents and activists, as reported by the AP, the raid ended with multiple deaths near the house that was targetted, including civilians. As per the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nine people died, including two children. The White Helments, a civil defense group, posted a tweet, saying that 13 people, including six kids and four women, were killed during the raid.
According to the group, teams managed to enter the targeted area minutes after the raid ended, which was around 3:15 a.m. local time.
“Our teams rushed an injured child to the hospital,” the group’s statement read. “The child's entire family was killed in the operation. The teams also rushed another person to the hospital who was injured in the clashes when he approached the scene to witness what was happening.”
The suicide detonation resulted in several civilian casualties. However, the total number of civilian deaths reported on the ground doesn’t “correspond with what U.S. officials say occurred on the ground last night,” two officials told Fox News.