Islamic state leader killed during US raid in Syria, Biden says


U.S. military forces in northwest Syria carried out a counterterrorism operation that killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group, President Biden said.

Mr. Biden said he ordered the raid that killed the Islamic State leader

“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. All Americans have returned safely from the operation," Mr. Biden said in a statement.

He said he would deliver remarks on the operation later Thursday morning.

The mission in northwest Syria along the Turkish border included Apache gunships, airstrikes and drones, according to U.S. officials and accounts on social media. There were also reports of civilian deaths, including women and children.

In his statement, Mr. Biden said the forces “successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation." He didn’t provide any details or address reports of civilian deaths.

The special forces, in conjunction with other U.S. troops, raided a site in the Atmeh area in Syria’s Idlib province for more than two hours, reportedly resulting in several deaths and the destruction of some structures, according to witness accounts filtered through social media. U.S. troops exchanged fire with enemy forces on the ground, according to those social-media reports.

At least 13 people were killed, including six children and four women, as a result of bombings and clashes in connection with the U.S. raid, Syrian civil-defense group the White Helmets said on its Facebook page. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the people were killed during the raid or after.

“We were woken up at 1 a.m. by the sound of war planes and helicopters," said Adnan Abo Mohammad, who lives not far from the site of the attack. “They were flying very low to the ground. Clashes went on till about 3 a.m."

The reported site of the raid, a building, is about 15 miles from the Syrian village of Barisha where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadidied in October 2019 during a U.S.-led raid when he detonated himself with a suicide vest.

Mr. Al-Qurayshi also is believed to have worn a suicide vest as U.S. troops approached, a U.S. defense official said. Unlike al-Baghdadi, the prominent founder of the terror group who spoke frequently to his followers, relatively little was known about his 45-year-old successor.

Thursday’s operation was in the planning stages for at least the past several days, U.S. officials said. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East, was expected to appear in person at a conference in Washington on Thursday. The organization changed his participation earlier this week to virtual remarks, so he could remain at Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Fla., according to people familiar with the matter.

By late Wednesday, the general’s staff had pulled him out of the conference altogether, according to officials with the Middle East Institute think tank, where he was expected to appear.

Charles Lister, a Syria specialist at the Middle East Institute, said that based on conversations he had with individuals in the area and videos posted on social media the raid began about 1 a.m. local time when two or three helicopters landed in the Atmeh area—where there are several camps for internally displaced people—and surrounded a residential building. Using a loudspeaker, U.S. troops demanded that women and children vacate the building, he said.


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