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US officials share details of raid that killed ISIL leader | ISIL/ISIS News

The leader of ISIL (ISIS) killed in a US raid in Syria was living on the third floor of a compound above an ‘unwitting family’ who were not associated with the group, US officials have said .

The US military carried out the operation on Wednesday that killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who Washington officials say blew himself up, killing members of his own family in a final act of desperation.

US officials said the military chose to raid with troops instead of shelling the compound to minimize damage to the family who lived on the first floor.

“It is because of the risk to this unwitting family and other civilians in the area that the President [Joe] Biden ordered this air assault operation, putting our own troops at risk to minimize the risk to others. And they succeeded in that mission,” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said US forces were able to safely evacuate the family from the home at the start of the raid.

The official added that the explosion at al-Qurayshi’s house was significant. “The explosion was so large, on the third floor, that it threw bodies outside the house and into the surrounding area,” the official said.

An ISIL lieutenant had barricaded himself with his family on the second floor during the raid, according to the US account. “He and his wife engaged the assault force. They were killed during the operation,” the official said.

“Practical” leader

Later Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said “it appears a child was also killed on this second floor.”

But he added that the US military was able to get a total of 10 civilians out of the building – six from the first floor and four children from the second floor.

Kirby said al-Qurayshi’s suicide bombing killed at least three civilians. But the White Helmets, Syria’s civil defense first responders who operate in rebel-held areas of the country, said 13 people were killed in the raid, including six children and four women.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin applauded the raid and reiterated that ISIL was responsible for civilian deaths during the operation.

But he suggested the Pentagon reconsider the incident. “This operation was specifically designed and conducted to minimize civilian casualties,” Austin said in a statement.

“We know that al-Qurayshi and others in his compound directly caused the deaths of women and children last night. But, given the complexity of this mission, we will consider the possibility that our actions may have also caused harm to innocent people.

The Pentagon said US troops suffered no casualties during the operation, but one US helicopter suffered a “mechanical failure” and was later destroyed by the US military after the raid.

“There was a situation where one of our helicopters had a mechanical problem, and so it was properly disposed of some distance from the site; it had nothing to do with any hostile action,” the US official said.

Biden praised the operation on Thursday, saying al-Qurayshi was the “driving force” of ISIL’s campaign of massacres and sexual violence against Yazidis in northwestern Iraq in 2014, when the group controlled large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.

The United Nations has classified ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidi people as genocide.

“This operation is a testament to the reach and ability of the United States to eliminate terrorist threats no matter where it tries to hide anywhere in the world,” Biden said Thursday.

ISIL named al-Qurayshi as its leader in 2019 after confirming the death of former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US special forces days earlier.

On Thursday, Kirby described al-Qurayshi as an “active type of leader” who was aware of the recent ISIL attack on a prison in northeast Syria. The US official said al-Qurayshi never left the house and commanded ISIL through couriers.

“We know that he certainly had knowledge and maintained at least a level of situational awareness during the escape from Hassakeh prison last week,” Kirby said. “We know that he was directly involved in the massacre and rape of innocent Yazidis in 2014. He is a man whom we should all be glad that he no longer walks the face of earthly tribunal.”

The Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retook Hassakeh prison last week after days of fighting that left dozens dead.

Civil losses

The Syria raid comes less than a week after Austin issued a directive ordering the US military to do more to protect civilians from harm from drone attacks and other combat operations, amid a wave of criticism.

New York Times reports last month documented how the Pentagon has ignored civilian casualties in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

The Pentagon was also called to account last year after a drone attack in Kabul killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children. US military leaders first insisted that the August 2021 bombing in the Afghan capital targeted ISIL-affiliated operatives who were planning an attack on Kabul airport, before finally acknowledging that civilians had been killed.

The Pentagon reviewed the incident but decided not to reprimand any US military official after concluding the drone attack was a “regrettable mistake” that did not violate the laws of war.

Annie Shiel, senior adviser at the US-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), said that while details of the US raid that killed the leader of ISIL in Syria are still known, “the initial version of events of the US military is often incomplete. , misleading or erroneous – especially when it comes to civilian casualties”.

“President Biden was quick to hail this as a resounding success despite the tragic deaths of civilians, including children,” Shiel told Al Jazeera in an email Thursday.

“And at the same time, he has yet to publicly address one of the very significant structural failures of U.S. civilian harm policies and practices reported in recent months. Where is the public acknowledgment and consideration of the legacy of damage from the last two decades of US operations?