On Wednesday night, U.S. special operations forces, at the direction of President Joe Biden, raided and killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi at his home in northwest Syria.
Biden announced the raid Thursday morning, saying, “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,” Biden continued. “All Americans have returned safely from the operation. I will deliver remarks to the American people later this morning. May God protect our troops.”
In a separate statement Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, “U.S. Special Operations forces under the control of U.S. Central Command conducted a counterterrorism mission this evening in northwest Syria. The mission was successful. There were no U.S. casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
Multiple publications have reported Al-Qurayshi was killed in the fighting. NBC reported he detonated a suicide bomb, killing himself and several civilians.
The Associated Press also reported multiple civilian casualties. First responders said they recovered 13 bodies, including those of six children and four women.
During a Thursday press conference, Biden said “knowing that this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a special forces raid, at a much greater risk to our own people, rather than targeting him with an airstrike.”
The Associated Press reported witnesses saw U.S. special forces land in helicopters and attack a house in the northwest Syria town of Atmeh.
Omar Saleh, a resident of a nearby neighborhood told the Associated Press his doors and windows started to rattle at the sound of low-flying aircraft at 1:10 a.m. local time. Saleh said he saw three helicopters and then heard a man speaking through a loudspeaker in Arabic, calling for women to leave the area or surrender.
Saleh said the broadcasts over the loudspeaker went for about 45 minutes with no reply, “Then the machine gun fire erupted.”
Saleh said the fighting went on for about two hours with gunmen. Continuous gunfire and multiple explosions were heard throughout the battle and aircraft circled low over the area.
A U.S. helicopter was reportedly lost during the operation.
Voice of America reporter Carla Babb tweeted, “NO CRASH LANDING- A US official tells me ‘during the operation a US helicopter experienced a maintenance issue and landed on ground safely.’ Troops rigged it for demolition because it could not fly back and then struck it with air-launched munitions. #BREAKING #Syria #ISIS.”
Agence France-Press reporter Jean-Marc Mojon tweeted additional footage of the helicopter wreckage.
“Our first pictures of the US helicopter that was destroyed in the operation that killed #ISIS leader Qurashi today in northern #Syria @AFPphoto,” Mojon tweeted.
The succesful raid on Al-Qurayshi comes just over two years after then-President Donald Trump ordered the raid that killed the previous leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Syria, on Oct. 27, 2019. Al-Baghdadi similarly detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and members of his family when he became cornered by U.S. forces.