President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that a U.S. special forces raid in Syria resulted in the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS. The Syrian Civil Defense said that 13 people were also killed, including six children and four women.
“The mission was successful,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement. “There were no U.S. casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
The Associated Press reported that “several residents said they saw body parts scattered near the site of the raid,” a house in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria, an al-Qaeda hotbed. The top floor of the house was reportedly destroyed completely, and blood could be seen on the walls and floor of what remained. The AP notes that the remaining structure included a bedroom with a children’s crib on the floor, and that a plastic children’s swing was hanging on one of the damaged walls.
“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 a statement after the attack on Thursday morning, noting that all Americans involved in the raid made it out safely.
A senior administration official said that al-Qurayshi died at the beginning of the raid by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, according to The New York Times.
Syrian Civil Defense first responders said 13 people including six children and four women were killed in the raid. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said 13 people were killed, and that four were children and two were women. A journalist who visited the site of the attack said he saw 12 bodies, according to the AP. The Pentagon did not provide any details about how many were killed.
“The first moments were terrifying, no one knew what was happening,” Jamil el-Deddo, a resident of a nearby refugee camp, told the AP. “We were worried it could be Syrian aircraft, which brought back memories of barrel bombs that used to be dropped on us.”
The raid — which according to the Times was carried about by two dozen commandos, helicopter gunships, armed drones, and fighter jets — was the biggest in Syria since the 2019 operation that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who preceded al-Qurayshi as the leader of ISIS. The military has been targeting al-Qaeda strongholds in northern Syria for months, and the raid on Thursday came just days after the U.S. supported a Kurdish militia trying to eradicate ISIS fighters from the Syrian city of Hasakah.
Biden addressed the public about the attack later on Thursday. “Knowing this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a Special Forces raid at much greater risk to our own people rather than targeting him with an air strike,” he said.
WATCH: Complete remarks from President Biden on Counterterrorism Operation in Syria pic.twitter.com/pDXoJMCkVF
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The raid in Syria follows an August drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that resulted in 10 civilian deaths. The military initially claimed it had taken out a leader of ISIS-K, only later admitting to have instead killed the civilians, including seven children and a man who was believed to be an aid worker.
The Times revealed in November that in March 2019, the military killed 70 people, almost all of them civilians, in a strike in Syria. The military covered up the action for years before it was unearthed by Times reporters, a reminder that the U.S. continues to kill civilians without accountability and that the total number of deaths are undoubtedly higher than we know.
A month later, the Times reported on a string of internal military documents detailing more than 1,300 civilian casualties that expose “how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.”