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Illustration by Security Management 

ISIS Leader Killed in U.S.-Led Raid

On Thursday, 3 February, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that an early morning raid resulted in the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), along with 12 other people, including women and children.

Although the helicopter raid was led by roughly two dozen U.S. Special Operations commandos into northwestern Syria, al-Qurayshi’s death was directly attributed to a suicide bomb he detonated while U.S. troops were still outside of the building. The explosion also killed members of his own family. The operation was assisted by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Thursday marked the second time a U.S. operation targeted a head of the extremist group in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province,” the Washington Post reported.

The assault was similar in tactical support and outcome to an October 2019 operation that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the previous ISIS leader, according to The New York Times. Like al-Qurayshi, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest “as U.S. forces raided a hide-out not far from where Thursday’s operation took place.”

“Little is known about (al-Qurayshi)…or ISIS’s top command structure. But analysts said the death of the Islamic State leader was a significant blow to the terrorist group,” the Times said.

The terrorist group had recently butted heads with U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, “including an attempt in January by ISIL to break thousands of followers out of a prison near Hassakeh in northeast Syria in a coordinated attack that started days of heavy fighting,” Al Jazeera reported.

In a statement to press at the White House, Biden said, “Last night’s operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield, and it sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: We will come after you and find you.”

Biden also said the operation resulted in no U.S. casualties. One helicopter was destroyed, however its destruction was at the hands of U.S. forces after it began to malfunction.

Nevertheless, the civilian casualties from the raid are already garnering criticism.

“The raid in Syria comes less than a week after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive ordering the US military to do more to protect civilians from harm in drone attacks and other combat operations,” Al Jazeera noted. The article added that the U.S. military is expected to explain why the assault was not more precise in preventing the other deaths and the surprise that U.S. military operations continue in Syria.