President Joe Biden announced that U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria killed the top leader of the ISIS terrorist group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, on Thursday. The raid also killed 13 people including women and children.
“Thanks to the skill and bravery of our Armed Forces, we have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi — the leader of ISIS,” Biden said in the statement.
Rescuers known as the White Helmets and the Syrian Civil Defense reported that the raid additionally killed 13 civilians, including six children and four women. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed the death toll.
This operation followed a series of attacks by the terror group in the region in recent weeks and as noted by the Associated Press, it was the largest raid after the one that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 during the Trump administration.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had said earlier during a brief statement that the counterterrorism operation had been “successful,” with no U.S. casualties.
According to reports, U.S. helicopters flew overhead surrounding a house in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria and security forces men used megaphones to urge women and children to leave the area.
After the attack, the second floor of the house was completely destroyed, and according to local residents, the bodies of the people who perished after the attack were scattered around the place.
“The first moments were terrifying, no one knew what was happening,” said Jamil el-Deddo, a resident of a nearby refugee camp. “We were worried it could be Syrian aircraft, which brought back memories of barrel bombs that used to be dropped on us.”
In recent months, U.S. special forces have conducted several operations against jihadist targets in and around Idlib. Idlib is also home to camps for families displaced by the decade-long conflict.
Analysts warn that jihadists are using the region as a place to hide among civilians.
The region, run mainly by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group of former members of the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, is the last enclave actively opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to U.S. officials, the U.S. objective in all these operations for several years now has been to dismantle a secret cell known as the Khorasan group, which plans external attacks, according to AP.