New Isis leader wipes out his whole family as US special forces swoop: Biden says ‘world is a safer place’ after Ibrahim al-Qurayshi blows himself up during raid on Syrian house, killing 13 - including SIX children
Source: Daily Mail
President Joe Biden confirmed the leader of ISIS is dead after he blew himself and his family up during a raid by U.S. commandos on a house in northwest Syria on Thursday.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi set off a bomb that killed himself as well as members of this family, the White House said.
Thirteen were killed, including six children and four women during the mission, which involved 24 Special Operations commandos backed by attack jets, Reaper drones and helicopter gunships.
'At the beginning of the operation, the terrorist target exploded a bomb that killed him and members of his own family, including women and children,' a senior administration official said.
In his statement Biden said al-Qurayshi was 'taken off the battlefield.' He added that he would address the operation in remarks later Thursday.
'Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place,' the president said in a statement early Thursday morning.
'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. All Americans have returned safely from the operation.'
Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and national security aides monitored a live-feed of the operation from the White House Situation Room, according to a photo released by the administration.
U.S. special forces landed in helicopters and assaulted the house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, clashing for two hours with gunmen, witnesses said in local reports.
The raid targeted a large house in Atmeh in the Idlib region of Syria where the ISIS leader was hiding. The two-story house was left with its top floor shattered and blood spattered inside. A journalist on assignment for The Associated Press and several residents noted that they saw body parts scattered near the site.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, also known as Abdullah Qardash or Hajji Abdullah, became the leader of the ISIS terrorist organization after former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also blew himself up in a similar raid by U.S. forces in 2019 in the nearby town of Barisha.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the President’s national security team observe the counterterrorism operation responsible for removing from the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in this photo from the White House
US-led raid target a high-ranking jihadist in northern Syria
Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place. 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. All Americans have returned safely from the operation. I will deliver remarks to the American people later this morning. May God protect our troops
The operation is thought to be the largest U.S.-led raid in the Idlib region since the 2019 assault which killed al-Baghdadi.
It was conducted in a similar style to the raid which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
U.S commandos deployed via helicopter under cover of darkness, surrounded the house and ordered women and children to evacuate via loudspeakers, before engaging opposition fighters in combat.
The helicopters then deployed their ordnance following the ground assault, with several strikes reducing large sections of the house to rubble - though some of the damage is believed to have come as a result of the target's suicide blast.
'The mission was successful. There were no U.S. casualties,' said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby in a statement.
But local residents and activists said several civilians were killed in the battle, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and first responders from Syrian Civil Defense reporting 13 deaths including several women and children.
The top floor of the three-story house was almost totally destroyed; a room there had collapsed, sending white bricks tumbling to the ground below.
The anti-jihadist coalition is led by the United States but its operations feature forces from several countries including the UK, France, Canada and Turkey.
Several residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals following the raid, said the mission involved helicopters, explosions and exchanges of heavy fire between ground troops.
A general view shows on February 3, 2022 the scene following an overnight raid by US special operations forces against a suspected high-ranking jihadist in Atmeh, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which left at least 13 people dead
An aerial view of wreckages around the site after an operation carried out by US forces targeting a high ranking jihadist in northern Syria last night
People inspect the destroyed house where the ISIS leader was staying
White Helmets search through rubble and debris after US airstrike
A Syrian man walks on bloodstained floors, February 3, 2022, at the scene following an overnight raid by US special operations forces against suspected jihadists in Syria
A Syrian man takes a picture of a blood soaked kitchen at the scene of a US anti-terror raid in Atmeh, Idlib
The raid by the U.S. commandos targeted a suspected jihadist leader in a house in Syria's northern town of Atmeh. The operation, which residents say lasted about two hours, jolted the village near the Turkish border - an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria's civil war. The target was killed in Atmeh, located mere miles from the town of Barisha where former ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019
Several pictured that have emerged from the scene show considerable damage to the outside of the house, with blood spattering the walls inside
A Syrian youngster stares at the aftermath of a US anti-terror strike in northern Syria
The aftermath of the raid saw considerable damage to the house, with extensive bloodstains suggesting a number of casualties among fighters and civilians
An aerial view of wreckages around the site on the outskirts of Atmeh in Idlib, Syria, following last night's operation
Children's clothing is pictured littered among the debris, showing the remnants of families and civilian life destroyed by the fighting and helicopter strikes
The wreckage of the military helicopter that US forces had to destroy due to technical malfunction during an operation carried out by US forces, is seen near Afrin's Jindires town
The helicopter was used in the raid on the ISIS leader
Social media and witness accounts suggest the battle lasted around two hours, with jihadist fighters attempting to repel the US commandos with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
Idlib is dominated by the Al-Qaida group and its affiliates including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and is home to several top al-Qaida operatives.
But other militants, including those from ISIS, have also found refuge in the region, which is broadly held by Turkey-backed fighters.
The U.S. has in the past used drones to kill top al-Qaida operatives in Idlib, which at one point was home to the group's biggest concentration of leaders since the days of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Who controls Idlib and why is it a terrorist stronghold?
Idlib is a city in northwestern Syria, and is the capital of the region of the Idlib Governorate.
The area is the last enclave in Syria to actively oppose the government of Bashar al-Assad, is home to more than three million people and is dominated by jihadists.
The region is mostly administered by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by former members of al-Qaeda.
HTS split off from al-Qaeda in 2016.
But the region is still home to several al-Qaeda operatives and affiliates, as well as several ISIS members.
A series of refugee camps made up of people displaced by the Syrian civil war make Idlib the perfect territory for jihadists to hide from U.S. anti-terror operations.
'Al-Qaeda uses Syria as a safe haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations,' said Central Command spokesman Army Major John Rigsbee in October.
The fact that special forces landed on the ground - in a similar style to the way in which US Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011 - suggests the target was believed to be of high value.
A U.S. airstrike killed al-Qaida's second in command, former bin Laden aide Abu al-Kheir al-Masri, in Syria earlier this year.
The Pentagon provided no details on who was the target of last night's raid, or if any combatants or civilians on the ground were killed or injured.
But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said that 13 people died in the operation including six children and four women - a tally echoed by first responders from Syrian Civil Defense.
The death of civilians not linked to the anti-terror operation carries echoes of the U.S.' reputation for collateral damage.
It comes after a botched drone strike in Kabul in the final hours of the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan last year killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
The strike was initially defended by the Pentagon as having targeted a potential car bomber, but it was later admitted to be tragic blunder.
Residents and activists described witnessing a large ground assault, with U.S. forces using loudspeakers urging women and children to leave the area.
There was at least one major explosion. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a mechanical problem and had to be blown up on the ground.
U.S. forces have been known to destroy downed aircraft to prevent technology falling into enemy hands, though others have argued it is a tactic used to destroy evidence.
Taher al-Omar, an Idlib-based activist, also said he witnessed clashes between fighters and the U.S. forces.
Much of the damage to the house, a three-story structure surrounded by olive trees in the countryside, looked to have been caused by American helicopter strikes.
But a senior American military official told the New York Times there was an explosion inside the house that was not caused by U.S. firepower, and was more likely caused by the target of the raid blowing himself up.
The military operation got attention on social media, with tweets from the region describing helicopters firing around the building near Atmeh.
Flight-tracking data also suggested that multiple drones were circling the city of Sarmada and the village of Salwah, just north of the raid's location.
Last night's operation is thought to be the largest U.S.-led raid in the area since the 2019 assault which killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (L) and was conducted in a similar style to the raid which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011
Children's clothing is pictured littered among the debris following the helicopter strikes
The raid left at least 13 people dead, including civilians
The target of the raid was a large house, with some parts of the structure completely reduced to rubble while other sections were left with considerable damage
The operation carried out against an individual suspected to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group
Syrian civil defense search on February 3, 2022 the scene following an overnight raid by US special operations forces against suspected jihadists in Atmeh, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib
A view of damage after a helicopter fired on a house killing 13 people including children and women during the operation carried out by US-led coalition in Idlib, Syria on February 3, 2022
The aftermath of the battle shows considerable external and internal damage at the house in northern Syria
The anti-terror raid comes amid a series of efforts by the Islamic State to reassert itself, with the group having recently carried out some of its biggest attacks since it was defeated in 2019.
ISIS has launched a series of operations in the region as of late - the most recent being a 10-day assault in late January to seize a prison in northeastern Syria.
A U.S.-backed Kurdish-led force said more than 120 of their fighters and prison workers died in the effort to thwart the ISIS plot amid bitter fighting which began on January 20 and lasted for over a week.
The prison houses at least 3,000 Islamic State group detainees, and the ISIS operation to free them suggests the group is attempting to re-arm itself and add to its ranks.
Syrians gather on February 3, 2022 at the scene following an overnight raid by US special forces against suspected jihadists in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib which left at least nine people dead, including three civilians
Roofs and walls collapsed, trapping people under the rubble. At least 13 people are thought to have died in the blasts
Garage doors at the compound are pictured sporting huge holes following the assault
Syrian civil defense workers evacuate a body over a destroyed staircase following the overnight raid by US special forces
Syrian civil defense workers evacuate a body following the overnight raid by US special forces
A Syrian man checks the damage in a house on February 3, 2022 at the scene of an overnight raid by US special operations
Residents and activists described witnessing a large ground assault, with U.S. forces using loudspeakers urging women and children to leave the area (abandoned room pictured with mattresses and clothes littering the floor)
The U.S.-led coalition carried out airstrikes and deployed American personnel in Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the prison area to help the Kurdish forces defeat ISIS fighters.
The attempted prison break was the biggest military operation by the extremist group since ISIS was defeated and its remaining members scattered in 2019.
At a news conference on Monday, an Syrian Democratic Forces senior official Nowruz Ahmad said the prison assault was part of a broader plot that ISIS had been preparing for a long time.
Other separate ISIS assaults were carried out in other neighborhoods in Hassakeh, Shaddada and areas of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and on the al-Hol camp in the south, which houses thousands of families of ISIS members.
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