President Joe Biden declared that “this horrible terrorist leader is no more” as he spoke to the nation Thursday about a U.S. Special Operations counterterrorism mission overnight in northwestern Syria in which Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group, was killed.
The ISIS leader died in the village of Atme, just nine miles from where his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in October 2019, during a similar American raid.
“Last night’s operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield, and it sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: We will come after you and find you,” Biden said from the White House.
Thirteen people, including children, died during the raid on an Islamic State safe house in northwestern Syria, local first responders said. No U.S. casualties were reported in the operation, in which U.S. forces destroyed a helicopter after it became disabled. Biden said civilian casualties were caused when Qurayshi detonated a huge explosion that killed members of his family. The Pentagon confirmed at least three civilian deaths.
The Pentagon said when U.S. military forces conducted an operation against the leader of ISIS, the 46-year-old jihadist detonated an explosive device, killing himself and members of his family.
“Removing Al-Qurayshi from the battlefield is a notable success in the fight against ISIS,” said a statement from the Free Yezidi Foundation. “The situation in Syria and Iraq, especially for religious minorities like Yezidis and Christians, remains perilous. Islamic extremism continues to pose an existential threat to our people.”
“The professionalism, skill and readiness of our troops — honed through relentless rehearsal — has dealt ISIS a severe blow and has helped make our country and our fellow citizens safer,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. “Al-Qurayshi, also known as Hajii Abdullah, provided near-constant operational guidance to ISIS fighters, to include the prison break and attack at Hasakah and the slaughter of Yazidis in Iraq. He is now off the battlefield and out of command, and cannot threaten any more lives.”
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. evacuated 10 people, including children, from the raid area.
The pre-dawn attack on a house led to up to 13 casualties, among them women and children, according to the United Nations children’s fund.
U.S. forces also engaged in a firefight with one of Quraishi’s lieutenants and that fighter’s wife. Both the lieutenant and his wife were killed, “and it appears as if a child was also killed” in the area, he added.
Various reports have surfaced showing that al-Qurashi helped Americans eliminate his rivals in terror group’s predecessor organization, as a prison informant while he was in US custody.
“U.S. officials opened a rare window into the terrorist chief’s early days as a militant with the release this week of dozens of formerly classified interrogation reports from his months in an American detention camp in Iraq,” said a story in the Washington Post. “Although the Defense Department had previously released a handful of documents that cast the future Islamic State leader as an informant, the newly released records are an intimate portrait of a prolific — at times eager — prison snitch who offered U.S. forces scores of priceless details that helped them battle the terrorist organization he now heads. The Islamic State grew out of an organization that was once called al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
The raid was considered a retaliation for an attack by Islamic State group fighters on Gweiran Prison, that occurred on Jan. 21, 2022 in Hassakeh, northeast Syria, where an estimated 4,000 IS fighters, as well as about 700 to 850 boys and teenagers from IS families were held.
Utilizing gunmen and suicide car bombs, the once-formidable terror group carried out a complex attack on the facility. Many newly freed ISIS fighters spilled into surrounding neighborhoods, while thousands were holed up under arms in the sprawling compound, using hostages as human shields.
The prison break set the stage for the largest confrontation between the US military, their local partners in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and ISIS in years. It took the US-backed forces nearly a week of vicious urban fighting before recapturing the prison and bringing the siege to an end.
“The Peoples’ Hammer Operation has culminated with our entire control of the al-Sina’a prison in al-Hasakah and the surrendering of all Daesh terrorists,” SDF spokesman Farhad Shami tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for the terror group.
While claiming to have completed its transition from a combat role in Iraq to an advisory mission in early December 2021, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the military component of a global coalition of 77 nations and five international organizations operating to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS or Daesh.