Biden reveals ISIS leader was ‘removed’ in recent US op in Syria
President Joe Biden has revealed on Thursday that a US counterterrorism operation in northwestern Syria successfully took Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi “off the battlefield.” Reports also suggest that a dozen civilians were killed.
“Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in the northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies,” read a statement from Biden. “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 also noted that all the Americans involved in the operation returned safely. The president’s statement came several hours after the Pentagon confirmed the raid, which targeted a house in the village of Atmeh in Syria’s Idlib province, near the border with Turkey. Locals told AP that the operation involved multiple helicopters, and that explosions and machine gun fire were heard.
Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation. Thanks to the bravery of our Armed Forces, we have removed from the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi — the leader of ISIS. https://t.co/lsYQHE9lR9— President Biden (@POTUS) February 3, 2022
According to a US official cited by AFP and Axios, al-Qurayshi blew himself up with a suicide vest during the raid. “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,” Axios quoted the source as saying.
UNICEF has confirmed that at least six children were killed and one girl was badly injured “due to heavy violence.” While neither Biden nor the Pentagon mentioned civilian casualties, a local reporter cited by AP said that at least 12 bodies were seen at the site, with Al Jazeera later claiming that seven children and three women were among them.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was appointed leader of IS following the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019. Like al-Qurayshi, al-Baghdadi was killed during an American raid in Idlib province, ordered by then-President Donald Trump.
Whereas IS once occupied enormous swathes of Iraq and Syria, and threatened to expand across northern Africa, the group’s territorial gains have since been rolled back by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies, and by a US and Western air campaign.
Prior to his death, al-Qurayshi had been considered a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US since 2020, and he had a $10 million bounty on his head.