The US:  Islamic State Leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi killed in Syria

The US Says:  Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi killed in Syria
Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi killed in Syria/courtesy

According to US officials, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) has been killed in a US raid in northern Syria that also killed, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi, a senior IS deputy.


As special forces rounded on his hideout after a gunfight, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi detonated a bomb, killing himself and his family.


On Thursday, US President Joe Biden announced the overnight raid.


Mr. Biden stated that Qurayshi’s death “removed a major terrorist threat to the world.”


Officials from the United States did not name the IS deputy who was also killed, but they did provide dramatic details about the operation, which had been months in the making.


IS has made no public statements on the subject so far.


According to the BBC, Qurayshi’s death would be a setback for IS, but the group would eventually regroup.


The raid was carried out on the outskirts of the opposition-held town of Atmeh, which is located in northern Idlib province and close to the Turkish border.


The region is home to jihadist groups that are fierce rivals of IS, as well as Turkish-backed rebel groups fighting Syria’s government.


Qurayshi was living with his family on the second floor of a residential building in Atmeh from which he ran IS, using couriers to deliver his orders in Syria and elsewhere, according to intelligence reports.


Following the death of his predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a notorious militant known as “the Destroyer” – also known as Hajji Abdullah, Amir Mohammed Said Abdul Rahman al-Mawla, and Abdullah Qardash – became IS leader in 2019.


Qurayshi is believed to have been groomed for the role and kept away from the battlefield in anticipation of assuming the mantle, despite the terror group announcing his rise to the top four days after Baghdadi’s death in October.


A $10 million ($7.3 million) reward had been offered by US authorities for information about the veteran jihadist, who was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1976.

What method was used to carry out the raid?


He never went outside in Atmeh except to bathe on the rooftop, but an airstrike would have resulted in a high number of civilian casualties, as another family living on the ground floor was not believed to be connected to IS or aware of Qurayshi’s presence.


Senior administration officials said that a possible ground raid was thoroughly researched, with a dozen scenarios practiced and risk assessments of the situation on the ground. Engineers built models of the residential compound and studied the likelihood of the structure collapsing in a blast.


Mr. Biden was briefed on the specifics of a possible December operation.


On Tuesday, he gave the special forces raid his final approval, and he watched it unfold live from the White House Situation Room as multiple helicopters arrived in Atmeh around midnight on Thursday (22:00 GMT on Wednesday).


According to local sources, US special forces met stiff resistance on the ground and were targeted by anti-aircraft guns mounted on vehicles. Before the helicopters left, gunfire and shelling could be heard for two hours.


US forces were able to evacuate ten people from the house, including eight children, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.


One of Qurayshi’s deputies and his wife, both of whom had fired on US forces, were killed in the raid. Additionally, Mr. Kirby stated that during the two-hour mission, US forces engaged a small group of people who approached the area and were “deemed hostile,” killing two of them.


“As a result of that, hostile activity came to an end,” he said, adding that “it appears a child was also killed” nearby. However, Mr Kirby added that the US does not “have perfect knowledge of every single person who was killed.”


Qurayshi detonated an explosive device on the third floor of the house as the raid unfolded, killing himself, his wife, and two children. It was described by Vice President Joe Biden as “a final act of cowardice.”


Mr. Kirby said Qurashi was later identified “through fingerprints and DNA analysis.”


There were no casualties in the United States. During the raid, one American helicopter malfunctioned and had to be destroyed.


When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ran into US forces in 2019, he used Qurashi’s blowing up strategy.


During a US special forces raid on a hideout only 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Atmeh, Baghdadi killed himself and three children by detonating an explosive vest.


Six children and four women were found dead at the house targeted in the raid, according to the White Helmets rescue service, also known as Syria Civil Defence.


Mr. Biden stated that all Americans involved in the operation were safe.


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