In Syria, A One-legged Man Bathes on a Rooftop? Indeed He's The Leader of ISIS

In Syria, A One-legged Man Bathes on a Rooftop? Indeed He's The Leader of ISIS

During the two-year hunt for the Islamic State's elusive leader last fall, a U.S. surveillance drone photographed a bearded man bathing atop a three-story building in northwest Syria. But he didn't have a leg.

ISIS chief Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who American and allied intelligence agencies had sought, matched the description in the article.

Analysts trained other aerial surveillance cameras on the rooftop and nearby areas. Officials said that those sensors had confirmed what had begun as a tip from informants on the ground within a few weeks. As The Washington Post reported earlier, that information set off a daring U.S. commando raid that ended in Mr. al-Qurayshi's death last week.

Mr. al-Qurayshi, 45, was born in Iraq and lost his leg in an airstrike near Mosul, Iraq, in 2015. In 2015, we aimed at him, one senior official said. I've been targeting him since the beginning of the campaign."

According to U.S. military officials, the blast that killed Mr. al-Qurayshi during the raid was most likely caused by a giant bomb that the terrorist rigged to destroy the majority of his third-floor residence.

Military officials suspect that a child found dead on the second floor of the building was killed by the blast, not a firefight between the child's parents and the commandos. Officials reported that the child suffered no visible injuries from gunshots or falling debris.

In a raid to capture or kill al-Qurayshi, seven people were killed - four civilians and three jihadists. Officials said on Thursday that more bodies might have been recovered from the rubble after the commandos had left the scene. Emergency responders say at least 13 people died during the assault, including women and kids.

One week after President Biden stated that he had ordered commandos to seize the ISIS leader instead of bombing the entire three-story building, new details regarding the predawn attack have emerged. Officials at the Pentagon say ten people were evacuated safely, including eight kids. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III noted that the military would review whether the mission had injured civilians.

U.S. forces raided Atmeh near the Turkish border two days after ending their most significant engagement with I.S. since the jihadists' so-called caliphate fell three years ago. For more than a week, U.S. forces supported a Kurdish-led militia fighting to expel Islamic State fighters from prison in Hasaka.
Even after the caliphate fell, and now with Mr. al-Qurayshi's death, the group's ability to cause havoc persists. The United Nations issued a report this week estimating that the Islamic State still maintains 6,000 to 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, "where it is forming cells and training fighters to launch attacks."

In addition, the State Department offered a $10 million reward for information about Sanaullah Ghafari, the leader of ISIS-K, the group's branch in Afghanistan. As a result of Kabul's international airport attack on Aug. 26, 13 Americans and up to 170 civilians were killed.
On Thursday, a small group of reporters heard from two senior U.S. military officials about the raid. The officials requested anonymity for operational reasons.

Last September, Delta Force commandos started the mission after getting a tip that ISIS was hiding out on top of a house. The military's Central Command supervised dozens of rehearsals, and Mr. Biden was briefed on an exercise using a tabletop model of the building. They also practiced on a mock-up of the building they'd raid later.

By the end of December, the commandos were ready for deployment, The commandos were prepared for deployment by the end of December, and Biden approved the mission. The mission was moved to Feb. 2 due to bad weather in northwestern Syria and the desire to do it on a moonless night.

The U.S. helicopters launched from a base in northeastern Syria controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and made a few refueling stops during the 800-mile nighttime trip. To avoid any accidental contact with Israel, Turkey and Russia, which have troops based in northwestern Syria, U.S. officials notified them shortly before the mission began.

U.S. officials have said Mr. al-Qurayshi, aka Hajji Abdullah, lived on the third floor of the building with his wife and two kids, and he only left the building to bathe on the rooftop. A top lieutenant residing on the second floor of the building, working with a group of messengers, carried out his orders to ISIS branches in Iraq, Syria, and other locations. A Syrian family occupied the first floor with no apparent links to terrorism.

When the commandos arrived just after midnight, warnings were shouted over bullhorns urging anyone on the first floor to leave. There were four children, a woman and a man who fled the first floor.

Officials said on Thursday that a massive explosion ripped through the third floor almost simultaneously. Mr. al-Qurayshi's body was blown out of the window by the blast.
Mr. Biden stated last week that Mr. al-Qurayshi died when a terrorist exploded a bomb in which he and others of his family had been killed. Officials said on Thursday that they didn't have proof that Mr. al-Qurayshi detonated the bomb but believed it because of his position. U.S. commandos did not attack or detonate any explosives on the third floor, and no casualties were sustained.

Immediately following the blast, commandos stormed the building and engaged Mr. al-Qurayshi's deputy and his wife, who were barricaded on the second floor with their kids. The two adults, as well as one child, died. However, four children were rescued safely.

A 13-year-old boy who was evacuated from the 1st floor described the family's terror at being taken from their home in the middle of the night.

He said the commandos kicked his dad before picking him up and searching his body for weapons, giving just his first name, Muhammad, for fear of retribution.

Later, the commandos tore off his mother's headscarf and dragged her by her hair.
During the postoperative period, the Americans inquired about the family's upstairs neighbors, who replied that they did not know them well.

He said, "We, here, killed the leader of ISIS," before the Americans left.
During the firefight on the second floor, four children were evacuated from the house, including two boys and two girls.

The commandos left the boy and his family with him, the boy reported, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham took them the following morning. This Islamist group controlled the area and was once affiliated with Al Qaeda.