A group of U.S. Special Operations Forces operators killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in a counterterrorism mission in northwest Syria Wednesday evening, President Joe Biden announced Thursday morning. Multiple sources and news outlets reported about the details of the raid.
Just after midnight, the whir of military helicopters flying low toward the premises and last know whereabouts of the suspected terrorist leader in a pastoral stretch of northwestern Syria roused surrounding neighbors from their sleep. Then a voice rang out in Arabic from a loudspeaker, ordering the occupants of a nearby house to give themselves up.
“Those who want to take part in jihad, come out!” the voice said, according to a close neighbor who gave only his nickname, Abu Omar. “Everyone will be safe if you surrender. Those who remain will die.”
According to the sources, operators then surrounded the house. They called out to the ISIS leader to allow civilians to be let out of the building, and several children did leave the premises. Soon after that, at the “very beginning of the two-hour operation, the terrorist target exploded a bomb that killed him and members of his own family, including women and children.”
The U.S. officials said a lieutenant of Qurayshi barricaded himself and members of his own family on the first floor. They added that the militant and his wife then battled the U.S. troops until they were both killed. Afterward, several children came out of the building and were safely removed. According to officials, at least two individuals who opened fire at one of the helicopters from elsewhere during the raid were also killed.
“While we are still assessing the results of this operation, this appears to be the same cowardly terrorist tactic we saw in the 2019 operation that eliminated al-Baghdadi,” the official said.
Multiple casualties reported
According to the sources on the ground, there were at least 13 killed and two more injured. No American casualties were reported. According to the White Helmets, the building was “partially destroyed” following the raid. One witness in Atmeh, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said that machine gunfire erupted from at least three helicopters flying overhead, followed by an explosion some minutes later. The area has a heavy presence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) forces that were formerly affiliated with al Qaeda.
The region itself is a stronghold of several jihadist groups that are fierce rivals of the so-called Islamic State and Turkish-backed rebel factions fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Biggest U.S. raid in Syria since 2019
The raid on Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was the biggest U.S. raid in Syria’s Idlib province since 2019 when then-President Donald Trump ordered a strike that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. ISIS named al-Qurayshi as its leader soon as the then-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. Special Operations Forces raid.