Photo credit: Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera
US President Joe Biden announced on 3 February that the leader of ISIS had been “taken off the battlefield” in a raid carried out on northwestern Syria the previous night.
According to a senior official, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was targeted and killed in an overnight US raid, during the evening following 2 February.
The ISIS leader had been serving as the replacement for the terror group’s former leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by the Trump administration on 27 October 2019.
Residents described the raid as the largest US operation in Syria since the killing of Baghdadi in Barisha, another town in northwestern Syria, controlled by US-armed pro-Turkish rebels.
The raid took place in Atmeh, a densely populated town in the rebel-held Idlib province near the Syrian-Turkish border.
The so-called Syrian Civil Defense first responders, more commonly known as the White Helmets, said that the raid left 13 people dead, including six children and four women.
“There were no US casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said during a briefing on 3 February, making no mention of the civilian deaths.
According to unconfirmed reports, US troops were aware that the targeted site was a residential area, and that children were in the vicinity prior to the attack.
The US operation comes at the same time as ISIS renews it efforts to stage a comeback after losing most of its foothold in Syria due to the efforts of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies.
In mid-January, ISIS began a ten-day assault on Ghweran prison in Syria’s northwestern Hasakah region, beginning on 20 January.
US-backed Kurdish forces have since announced full control over the prison, despite reports claiming that tens of ISIS fighters remain sheltered inside. US forces were reportedly in the vicinity as the SDF was engaged in battle with the terror group.
US occupying forces remain deployed in Syria and, as of yet, have shown no intention to withdraw, despite attacks against their bases and logistical convoys over the last year, including as recently as 5 January of this year.