The leader of ISIS is dead after a bloody U.S. raid in northwestern Syria overnight.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday morning that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had detonated a suicide bomb during the assault—which he was monitoring from the White House in real-time.
The battle is reported to have left several civilians dead, including six children.
“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, and make the world a safer place,” Biden said.
The White House posted a photo of the president and Vice President Kamala Harris watching the raid. CNN reported Biden and Harris watched on as al-Qurayshi detonated a suicide device, throwing his body to the outside of the building.
U.S. Special Forces carried out the two-hour operation in the small village of Atmeh inside the rebel-held Idlib province. The Syrian Civil Defense, a group of volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets, said six kids and four women were among 13 killed in the chaos. One eyewitness who lives nearby told Reuters: “There was blood everywhere.”
The president said the civilian casualties were caused when al-Qurayshi detonated a huge blast that killed members of his family.
Speaking from the White House, Biden said: “Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more... Knowing that terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a Special Forces raid at a much a greater risk to our own people rather than targeting him with an airstrike.”
Speaking to AP, residents described an eruption of noise from helicopters, explosions and machine-gun fire as part of the U.S. operation that targeted a two-story house that was surrounded by olive trees.
Footage from Syrian news networks showed the top floor of the house was largely destroyed in the battle. In the parts of the building that were still standing, blood and body parts were shown splattered across the floor, and video reviewed by Reuters showed the bodies of two children.
Photos from the destroyed home showed evidence that suggested children were nearby. A wooden crib was seen on the floor of one destroyed bedroom, a plastic swing was still hanging on one of the walls that resisted the shelling, and damaged dolls were shown on the ground.
Village resident Omar Saleh told AP his windows began to shake at 1:10 a.m. local time when helicopters flew over his home, then a loudspeaker blared out an announcement ordering women to leave the area. “This went on for 45 minutes. There was no response. Then the machine gun fire erupted,” Saleh recounted, saying it lasted for two hours.
An unnamed resident told Reuters that he left his home after midnight to investigate the noise before the violence began. “Ten minutes later we heard screams: ‘Surrender, the house is surrounded,’” he said. “We heard fire. There was shelling from airplanes and machine guns.”
It was the biggest U.S. raid in Syria’s Idlib province since 2019, when then-President Donald Trump ordered a strike that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
ISIS named al-Qurayshi its leader after al-Baghdadi’s death.