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Biden says ISIS leader is dead after U.S. operation

The aftermath of an overnight raid by U.S. special operations forces against suspected jihadists in Atme, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which left several people dead, including civilians.
Aaref Watad
/
AFP via Getty Images
The aftermath of an overnight raid by U.S. special operations forces against suspected jihadists in Atme, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which left several people dead, including civilians.

Updated February 3, 2022 at 8:09 AM ET

President Biden said the counterterrorism operation in northern Syria took out ISIS leader Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi – and that all Americans returned safely from the operation.

"Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place," Biden said in a statement. "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 is expected to deliver remarks on the operation at 9:30 a.m. ET. Watch live here:

At a briefing, a senior administration who spoke to reporters on grounds that they not be identified said that that Haji Abdullah "detonated a blast, a significant blast killing himself and several others, including his wife and children. This is the same terrorist tactic of his predecessor taking his own life and his own family rather than face justice or stand and fight on his own."

Both these terrorist leaders murdered their own families. In this case, the blast was so large on the third floor that it blew bodies outside of the house and into the surrounding areas.Earlier Thursday, the Pentagon, in a statement, said it carried out a counterterrorism mission in northwest Syria. U.S. officials confirmed to NPR that a helicopter had problems on the ground and had to be blown up in place.

The Syria Civil Defence, the rescue organization known as the White Helmets, tells NPR that 13 civilians died in bombings and clashes, including six children. The group said it received initial word of an airborne raid shortly after midnight, and clashes and bombings continued after the initial air raid. They lasted until 3:07 AM, "when helicopters exited the scene."

The attack targeted a two-story building in the town of Atmeh near the Turkey-Syria border.

The Associated Press reports this was the largest strike in Idlib since the 2019 strike that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which also killed civilians. Residents in Atmeh told the AP they witnessed a large ground assault and that American forces used loudspeakers warning women and children to flee.

The Pentagon said it would provide more information when it was available.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Granitz
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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