Biden claims ISIS leader blew up himself and his family
US president said terrorist chief killed himself and his family as US forces closed in, but Syrian media say US shelled civilians
President Joe Biden has doubled down on earlier reports that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi detonated a suicide device as US forces closed in on him, killing several family members in the process. However, other accounts blame the US for civilian deaths.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed in a raid by US special forces in Idlib province, northwestern Syria, on Wednesday night. UNICEF confirmed that at least six children also died during the US operation, and local reports suggest that around a dozen civilians may have died in total.
Biden told reporters on Thursday that the US chose to deploy special forces rather than assassinate al-Qurayshi with an airstrike, in order to minimize civilian casualties. Biden then said that the terrorist chief blew himself up before he could be captured or killed by the Americans.
President Biden said Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, including women and children, as U.S. forces approached. pic.twitter.com/61gADapFXY
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 3, 2022
“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,” Biden said. The president added that the explosion took out the entire third floor of the building al-Qurayshi was in, and that the IS leader took “several members of his family with him, just as his predecessor did.”
Al-Qurayshi’s predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also cornered in Idlib by US special forces in a 2019 raid ordered by then-President Donald Trump. Al-Baghdadi reportedly detonated a suicide belt, killing himself and two children. Like Biden with al-Qurayshi, Trump derided al-Baghdadi for cowardice in death, jeering “He died like a dog. He died like a coward.”
Although Biden attributed civilian casualties to al-Qurayshi’s suicide device, the president admitted that “our team is still compiling a report.”
Syria’s SANA news agency told a different story about the raid. In a report on Thursday, SANA cited local sources saying that US forces used drones to shell several buildings in the vicinity of al-Qurayshi’s house, killing at least 13 people, including six children and three women.