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Biden says is leader killed during US raid in Syria

The leader of the so-called Islamic State group was killed during an overnight raid in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, President Joe Biden said.

The raid targeted Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who took over as head of the militant group on October 31 2019, just days after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a US raid in the same area.

A US official said he died as al-Baghdadi did, by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, including women and children, as US forces approached.

He is also known as Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla.

The operation came as IS has been trying for a resurgence, with a series of attacks in the region, including a 10-day assault late last month to seize a prison.

US special forces landed in helicopters and assaulted a house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, clashing for two hours with gunmen, witnesses said.

Residents described continuous gunfire and explosions that jolted the town of Atmeh near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war.

First responders reported that 13 people had been killed, including six children and four women.

Mr Biden said in a statement that he ordered the raid to “protect the American people and our allies, and make the world a safer place”.

He planned to address the American public later on Thursday.

“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,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

He said all Americans involved in the operation returned safely.

“The mission was successful,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a brief statement. “There were no US casualties.”

The top floor of the low house was almost totally destroyed; a room there had collapsed, sending white bricks tumbling to the ground below.

The opposition-run Syrian Civil Defence, first responders also known as the White Helmets, said 13 people were killed in shelling and clashes that ensued after the US commando raid.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, also said the strike killed 13 people, including four children and two women. Ahmad Rahhal, a citizen journalist who visited the site, reported seeing 12 bodies.

The Pentagon provided no details on casualties in the raid.

The Observatory said the troops landed in helicopters. Residents and activists described witnessing a large ground assault, with US forces using megaphones urging women and children to leave the area.

Omar Saleh, a resident of a nearby house, said he was asleep when his doors and windows started to rattle to the sound of low-flying aircraft at 1.10am local time.

He ran to open the windows with the lights off, and saw three helicopters. He then heard a man, speaking Arabic with an Iraqi or Saudi accent through a loudspeaker, urging women to surrender or leave the area.

“This went on for 45 minutes. There was no response. Then the machine gunfire erupted,” Mr Saleh said. He said the firing continued for two hours, as aircraft circled low over the area.

Taher al-Omar, an Idlib-based activist, said he witnessed clashes between fighters and the US force.

Others reported hearing at least one major explosion during the operation.

A US official said that one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a mechanical problem and had to be blown up on the ground.

The military operation got attention on social media, with tweets from the region describing helicopters firing around the building near Atmeh.

Flight-tracking data also suggested that multiple drones were circling the city of Sarmada and the village of Salwah, just north of the raid’s location.

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