US special operations forces carried out a raid in northwest Syria late Wednesday against an ISIS leader, and civilians were reported killed in the operation.
Local sources told Syrian state media and The Associated Press that at least 13 people were killed in the raid, including six children and four women. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also cited sources who said 13 were killed, but they said four children and three women were killed.
The AP report said US special operations forces landed in helicopters and attacked a house in the Syrian town of Atmeh, near the Turkish border in the Idlib province. Witnesses said the US clashed with gunmen for two hours.
President Biden announced the operation on Thursday and said it killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who replaced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the leader of ISIS after he was killed in a similar raid in 2019. Biden said the operation was “successful” and blamed the civilian casualties on al-Qurayshi.
“In a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard to the lives of his family or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up … taking several members of his family with him — just as his predecessor did,” Biden said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said al-Qurayshi blew himself up before engaging the US special operations forces. He said the US troops engaged in a gunfight with other individuals who approached the house after the US landed.
The operation comes amid intense scrutiny over the enormous number of civilian casualties during the US air war against ISIS in Iraq in Syria. As recent reporting from The New York Times shows, the Pentagon is notorious for not telling the full story about its operations and hiding civilian casualties.
The US was recently involved in major fighting between ISIS and the Kurdish-led SDF over in northeast Syria that was touched off by an ISIS attack on a prison. The fighting killed nearly 500 people.