The White House announced that U.S. troops killed a top Islamic State commander in a raid in Syria early Thursday morning.

ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was reportedly killed in a U.S.-led Special Forces counterterrorism operation that took place in northwest Syria. Local Kurdish forces reportedly assisted the U.S. forces in the operation. 

Apparently, Qurayshi died when he detonated a suicide bomb that also claimed the lives of his wife and children. U.S. President Joe Biden blasted the ISIS leader for sacrificing the lives of his own family members. 

“But we do know that as our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard to the lives of his own family or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up … rather than face justice for the crimes he has committed — taking several members of his family with him, just as his predecessor did,” Biden said.

In a statement released by the White House, Biden stressed the importance of the military operation against the ISIS leader.

“Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in the 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. All Americans have returned safely from the operation. I will deliver remarks to the American people later this morning.”

U.S. Special Operations forces led the “successful” counterterrorism operation, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby who added there were no American casualties.

Local residents said that 13 people – which may have included Qurayshi’s wives and children – were killed.

The counterterrorism operation was the most significant American military intervention in Syria since the killing of the original Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 in a Special Forces operation ordered by the former President Donald Trump. As Biden noted, al-Baghdadi also died together with his family when he detonated his suicide bomb belt in order to avoid being captured by U.S. forces.


Who was the latest ISIS leader al-Qurayshi, who was also known as al-Mawla?

Like his predecessor, al-Baghdadi, the 45-year-old al-Qurayshi was a foreigner in Syria. Born in Iraq, more specifically in the Mosul district in northwest Iraq, he officially took over the leadership of ISIS shortly after the death of al-Baghdadi in 2019.

Unlike al-Baghdadi, al-Qurayshi was described as a “low-profile” leader. Officials in Washington struggled to get intelligence on the fundamentalist Islamist shadow terrorist leader. He quickly became one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and U.S. authorities offered a $10 million reward for any information that could assist in the capture or death of al-Qurayshi.

Washington has in recent years kept a small but critical military presence in Syria, providing support for pro-Western Kurdish forces and preventing ISIS from regaining its former strength in the country. However, the U.S. presence is also about protecting the Kurdish forces from being attacked by other powerful forces in the region: the Syrian regime, Turkey and Russian forces.

Nicholas Heras, a senior analyst at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington, concluded in July 2021 that the local Kurdish forces also known as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), would be in danger without U.S. military support.

“Without U.S. support, the SDF would be the target of the [Syrian] regime, Russia, and Turkey, all of which have shown neither the ability to fight ISIS effectively nor the capability to appeal to the local Syrian population in post-ISIS areas like the SDF can,”  Heras said.


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