ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed in a “successful” U.S. Special Operations counterterrorism mission in northwest Syria Thursday, President Biden and the Pentagon said.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said there were no U.S. casualties, eyewitnesses said.
Biden said the raid took place “at my direction,” and he thanked the “bravery” of U.S. forces. Biden is scheduled to speak publicly about the raid Thursday morning.
Human rights groups and witnesses described a large operation by U.S. commandos that seemed to have the intensity and planning of a raid on a high-value target. Social media users posted a purported video of the attack in the nighttime hours. A helicopter was only visible when it opened fire.
Residents in Atmeh, a village in rebel-held Idlib Province, told the Associated Press that there was a large ground assault, with U.S. forces using loudspeakers asking women and children to leave the area. They described the raid as the biggest operation since the October 2019 killing of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The area, which is near the Turkish border, is home to several top al Qaeda operatives and other militant groups still fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon referred Fox News to an earlier statement.
There was at least one major explosion. U.S. officials told Fox News that one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a maintenance issue and had to be blown up on the ground.
The New York Times reported that the “White House was abuzz on Wednesday night about something secretive afoot, and Pentagon officials were unusually tight-lipped about the mission’s details.”
Residents and activists told the AP that there were multiple deaths near the home that was raided in Atmeh, which included civilians. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine people were killed, including two children. The White Helmets, a civil defense group in the country, tweeted that 13 people, including six children and four women, were killed.
The group said teams were able to enter the targeted building minutes after the fighting ended, at about 3:15 a.m., local time.
“Our teams rushed an injured child to the hospital,” a statement read. “The child’s entire family was killed in the operation. The teams also rushed another person to the hospital who was injured in the clashes when he approached the scene to witness what was happening.”