Update: A US special forces raid in northwestern Syria early Thursday killed the top leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, President Biden said. “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 said in a statement, per the AP. He said all Americans involved in the operation returned safely. Biden said he would address the American people later Thursday on the raid. Our earlier story from Thursday follows:
Residents and activists are reporting multiple deaths—including civilians—from a US raid in northwestern Syria overnight Thursday. Several residents told the AP they saw body parts scattered around the house in the village of Atmeh, near the border with Turkey. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals following the raid, which they say involved helicopters, explosions, and machine-gun fire. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike killed nine people, including two children and a woman. Ahmad Rahhal, a citizen journalist who visited the site in Idlib province, reported seeing 12 bodies. Others were reportedly still under the rubble.
The Pentagon had previously announced that US special operations forces conducted a large-scale counterterrorism raid in northwestern Syria overnight Thursday, in what it said was a “successful mission" with no US casualties. The raid was in Syria’s rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib. The Pentagon provided no details on who was the target of the raid, or if any enemies or civilians on the ground were killed or injured. Idlib is home to several top al-Qaeda operatives, and the clandestine operation came as the Islamic State was appearing to try to stage a comeback after its effort to establish a caliphate failed in 2019. Residents and activists in the area described seeing a large ground assault, and US forces using loudspeakers asking women and children to leave the area.
There was at least one major explosion. A US official said that one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a mechanical problem and had to be blown up on the ground. The US official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the military operation. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops for the US-led coalition using helicopters landed in the area and attacked a house. It said the force clashed with fighters on the ground. The military operation got attention on social media, with tweets from the region describing helicopters firing around a building near Atmeh. Flight-tracking data also suggested that multiple drones were circling the city of Sarmada and the village of Salwah just north of there in Idlib province.
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