What we know about the American raid that eliminated the leader of Daesh

It is an operation which was planned over several weeks, with logistics close to those which had enabled Osama Bin Laden to be killed. During the night of Wednesday to Thursday, an American raid carried out in northern Syria made it possible to eliminate the leader of Daesh, announced Joe Biden. Surrounded by US forces, Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi blew himself up, killing his wife and at least two children. In total, the raid left nine dead, with no losses on the American side. Washington assures that no civilian was killed by its troops.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House Situation Room during the raid.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House Situation Room during the raid. – EyePress News//SIPA

Daesh leader located “several months ago”

According to the accounts of several US administration officials, the leader of Daesh, who succeeded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi two years ago, also eliminated by the United States, was located “several months ago near camps for displaced people in the locality of Atme, in the Idleb region, near the border with Turkey, in northern Syria, largely controlled by jihadists and rebels.

Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi.
Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi. – EyePress News//SIPA

Biden then orders intelligence to confirm his identity as the jihadist leader, which is done in early December. The American president orders the Pentagon to prepare an operation to eliminate him.

A drone strike ruled out

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley brief Joe Biden on the details of the operation using a model of the house where al-Qurachi is hiding. A drone strike is excluded because of the presence of many children in the small three-storey building where the leader of Daesh lives with his family on the second floor, without ever leaving his home. One of his lieutenants lives with his family on the first floor. He does the shopping for al-Qurachi and conveys his messages to the jihadist organization. On the ground floor, a family who knows nothing about the tenant on the second floor.

Aerial view of the residence where Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi died in a US raid in northern Syria on February 3, 2022.
Aerial view of the residence in which the leader of Daesh, Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi, died during an American raid in northern Syria, February 3, 2022. – Abdulaziz KETAZ/UPI//SIPA

It is therefore the airborne raid that is chosen to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. One of the options considered is for al-Qurachi to blow himself up, as al-Baghdadi had done. Army engineers, consulted, examine the building and conclude that there is little risk of it collapsing on the inhabitants of the other floors.

Explosion and firefight

A little after midnight on Thursday, helicopters dropped off the soldiers near the building. The Pentagon has been very tight-lipped about the number of American soldiers involved and their equipment, simply stating that the raid only included elite American soldiers. As soon as they arrive, they call on the residents to leave the building. The family on the ground floor comes out, with four children, they are taken to safety.

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Via powerful loudspeakers, the American forces give an opportunity to al-Qurachi and the occupants of the residence to surrender. A witness tells the New York Times hearing a voice in Arabic say, “If you surrender, everyone will be safe. Those who remain will die”.

Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi blew himself up during a US raid in Syria on February 3, 2022.
Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi blew himself up during a US raid in Syria on February 3, 2022. – EyePress News//SIPA

According to Joe Biden, “in an ultimate act of cowardice”, al-Qurachi blew himself up, killing his wife and two children – it is not clear if they were his. The explosion “is so powerful on the second floor that bodies are thrown outside”, says a White House official. Qourachi’s lieutenant and his wife then begin to fire on the American soldiers, who retaliate and kill them. A child is also killed in the exchange of fire but four others come out of the first floor unscathed, including a baby, and are evacuated. Shortly after, armed individuals approach the American forces and shoot at them. Two of them are killed and the others flee.

Identified by DNA

Among the bodies found outside is that of Qurachi himself, said the head of US forces in the Middle East, General Kenneth McKenzie. He is identified by fingerprints and DNA, and his body is left behind. At the start of the operation, one of the helicopters is damaged. It is decided to move it away from residential areas and destroy it. The American soldiers are evacuated without incident.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris followed the entire operation from the White House Situation Room, in constant communication with military leaders. In total, the raid left 9 dead, and ten civilians are safe and sound, including eight children. “This operation was specifically designed and carried out to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible,” concluded the Minister of Defense, saying he was “very proud” of the raid in a press release.

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