President Joe Biden said that the United States’ counterterrorism operation that killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was a clear message that the United States would go after those who threaten the United States and its allies.
The president’s remarks come after the Pentagon said that it carried out a “large-scale” counterterrorism raid in Syria that killed 13 people, including six children and four women.
“We remain vigilant. We remain prepared,’ the president said at the White House. “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.”
Mr Biden noted that al-Qurayshi was responsible for the genocide of the Yazidi people in Northwestern Iraq 2014.
The president said that he directed the Department of Defence to take every precaution possible to minimize civilian casualties.
“Knowing that this terrorist had chosen surround himself with families, including chilren, we made a choice to pursue a special forces raid, at a much greater risk to our own people rather than targeting him with an airstrike,” he said. “We made this choice to minimise civilian casualties.”
Mr Biden said that the United States was still compiling a report but that it does know that as troops approached to capture al-Qurayshi, he blew himself up.
“Not just with a vest but to blow up that third floor rather than face justice for the crimes he has committed taking several members of his family with him, just as his predecessor did,” Mr Biden said. al-Qurayshi succeeded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump killed.
The raid was planned for months and commanders first briefed Mr Biden a month ago, according to senior administration officials. The President was briefed last month and again this week. Mr Biden reportedly gave the go-ahead on Tuesday.
Mr Biden reportedly monitored the situation in real-time in the Situation Room of the West Wing on Wednesday evening with Vice President Kamala Harris, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley and Gen Frank McKenzie, who leads United States Central Command.
The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said the victims were killed in the ensuing battle after the raid. The area was largely controlled by Turkish-backed fighters but was also home to many top al-Qaeda operatives.
The announcement of al-Qurayshi’s death came following a “large-scale” counterterrorism raid in the town of Idlib, home to several top al-Qaeda operatives and senior members of the Islamic State. Former Isis chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was killed in a Trump-era raid, also on Idlib in 2019.
The deadly overnight led to other casualties, with first responders telling The Independent that 13 people had been killed, including six children and four women.
Mr Biden is scheduled to give additional remarks on the operation at 9.30am ET.