update(11:06am ET): In total 13 people people reportedly died, and a US Blackhawk helicopter went down in an emergency landing (subsequently destroyed by US operatives), during the daring overnight raid on the terror leader's hideout. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, said to the the successor of the Islamic State's al-Baghdadi, reportedly detonated a suicide bomb as US special forces conducted their operation by a middle of the night landing from helicopters. He was living an a multi-story residence Atmeh, Idlib, which is in an area controlled by Turkey & HTS (or Syrian al-Qaeda).
According to details presented by the White House:
Al-Qurayshi died after detonating a suicide bomb that also killed members of his family as U.S. forces closed in, Biden said in an address from the White House.
The counterterrorism operation was carried out under his direction, he said, with all U.S. forces emerging safe from the raid.
Local residents and first responders described a chaotic scene that left a number of people dead, including women and children.
The UK Times details, "According to reports from witnesses, he refused an initial order to surrender. In the subsequent fighting, the house was blasted with explosives and in total 13 people were killed, including four women and six children."
Akin to the 2011 Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan - a US military helicopter went down: "A U.S. official said that a military helicopter experienced a maintenance issue during the operation. It set down safely at least a mile away from the objective, but was deemed unsafe to fly back and was detonated on site, the official said."
The operation was said to have been "months" in planning, and reports say defense planners and the administration knew it would be a high risk, dangerous raid in the middle of a residential area with women and children present.
JUST IN: Biden declares #ISIS leader “no more”— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) February 3, 2022
• Qurayshi taken out in N #Syria
• Op was last night, months in planning, Biden approved it Tue.
• Qurayshi detonated himself +family
• Mastermind of Yazidi Genocide
• US 🚁 broke on scene. More: https://t.co/IW1WDn9SbN
Also, the obvious question remains: what are ISIS leaders doing living comfortably right on the Turkish border, and in an area that in 2015 was "liberated" by US-backed Islamic militants?
As the well-known Syria expert Joshua Landis remarked hours after the operation, it's "Hard to believe that Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, the head of HTS, and Turkey would not know of his presence in their area."
The house where the leader of #ISIS was killed by #SU raid,is located in a "security square" in northern #Syria.— Ibrahim Hamidi ابراهيم حميدي (@ibrahimhamidi) February 3, 2022
* 150-200 meters from a checkpoint for "Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham"
* 400-500 from Turkish police station
* 800-1000 meters from a #Turkish military post pic.twitter.com/Fbm8nApe6Z
The head of Islamic State was living comfortably within an area of northwest Syria under the control of NATO member Turkey and its proxies...
#Idlib: Local Media: US-led International coalition launched an operation between Atmeh and Deir Ballut and demand the evacuation of women and children because they will storm the house pic.twitter.com/HoE7OikoWN— Rojava Network (@RojavaNetwork) February 2, 2022
Purported video of the destroyed Black Hawk after suffering mechanical failure during the operation...
The first video from the outskirts of Atmeh (Idlib), where a US helicopter (UH-60/MH-60) was destroyed by an airstrike.— Mukhtar Magomedov (@Mukhtarr_MD) February 3, 2022
The cause of the US helicopter loss is a technical malfunction. pic.twitter.com/qOWnkc0HS4
* * *
A major special forces raid believed part of a mission to kill or capture terrorists happened overnight in al-Qaeda held Idlib province of northwest Syria. Eyewitnesses observed helicopter gunships and jets active in the area of the village of Atmeh near the Turkish border for over two hours, including gunfire on the ground, in what's being called the biggest such raid since the 2019 killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Despite Pentagon spokesman John Kirby hailing the mission as "successful" in an early Thursday statement, citing "no US casualties" - already international reports are saying multiple civilians were killed in what's already looking like a botched raid.
"U.S. special forces carried out what the Pentagon said was a large-scale counterterrorism raid in northwestern Syria early Thursday. First responders at the scene reported 13 people were killed, including six children and four women," The Associated Press reports.
"Residents said helicopters flew overhead and U.S. forces clashed with gunmen for more than two hours around a two-story house surrounded by olive trees," AP detailes. "They described continuous gunfire and explosions that jolted the sleepy village of Atmeh near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war."
Initially there was speculation that it could be connected with last month's large-scale ISIS prison break from a Kurdish SDF guarded facility in northeast Hasakeh province. It led to over 120 US-backed SDF members killed after two weeks of running battles in the area of the prison, with possibly a few hundred ISIS terrorists having escaped.
As soon as last night's Idlib operation commenced, it involved overwhelming American firepower, but with reports of resistance from militants on the ground. "A journalist on assignment for The Associated Press and several residents said they saw body parts scattered near the site of the raid, a house in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province," AP continues.
Further, some sources suggest that US commandos were after Baghdadi's successor:
An Iraqi intelligence official in contact with the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday’s target was a high-ranking militant leader whose identity will be released by the White House later in the day. Information suggests he may be al-Baghdadi’s successor, the current IS leader known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the official added. He spoke on condition of anonymity to divulge sensitive information.
A subsequent White House statement early Thursday confirmed the target was the head of ISIS, namly the aforementioned Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi:
Biden's statement says the Islamic State commander has been "taken off the battlefield" - presumably killed. But that many civilians were slaughtered in the process will be a major area of scrutiny as the administration attempts to cast this as a "successful mission".
It proves further embarrassing for Turkey, given it directly backs the main Islamist factions in Idlib, which has become a terror safe-haven. It must also be recalled that the CIA and allied intelligence services actually helped Islamic fighters - included al-Qaeda in Syria - capture Idlib from Syrian government forces in the first place in 2015.
Appears that a Black Hawk was lost during last night’s Delta Force raid outside Idlib—likely a 160th SOAR MH-60, either a transport or a Direct Action Penetrator variant (whose cannons could be heard in video of the raid) https://t.co/KvOfnk3gL2— Wesley Morgan (@wesleysmorgan) February 3, 2022
Video began emerging in the overnight hours confirming that a major US operation was underway, reportedly involving elite Delta Force commandos...
Something big is going down in NW #Syria -- (a) U.S. helicopter gunships firing on a target in the #Jinderes area of #Afrin & (b) a possible SOF raid targeting Tauqir Sharif, a [former] #UK citizen in the Atmeh area of #Idlib.pic.twitter.com/S2KWnFtAK5— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) February 2, 2022
Local journalists and monitors who reportedly visited the location of the raid observed the following: "The top floor of the house was almost totally destroyed in Thursday’s raid, with the ceiling and walls knocked out." Some photographs of the aftermath have been published to Al Jazeera.
"Blood could be seen on the walls and floor of the remaining structure, which contained a wrecked bedroom with a child’s wooden crib on the floor," the AP report notes. "On one damaged wall, a blue plastic children’s swing was still hanging. The kitchen was blackened with fire damage."