Civilian toll in Syria raid could also be greater than thought

WASHINGTON – U.S. army officers stated Thursday there may have been extra civilian casualties than initially thought within the raid that killed the highest Islamic State chief in Syria final week, however they imagine any such deaths have been brought on by the militant’s suicide bomb and weren’t by the hands of American forces.

Laying out a chronology of the raid by particular operations forces, officers additionally stated they can’t be sure that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi detonated the bomb that killed him and his household at his residence within the sleepy village of Atmeh close to the Turkish border.

However they stated it was set off by him or another person on the third ground of the constructing the place he lived. Beforehand the Pentagon and President Joe Biden had stated al-Qurayshi blew up himself, his spouse and two youngsters. The army officers stated Thursday they imagine the higher ground was rigged to blow up and that it is most probably al-Qurayshi did it, not considered one of his members of the family.


In addition they stated it is attainable that others — maybe further wives he had — may have been with him and killed in that blast. They stated the blast threw “a number of our bodies” from the constructing and buried them within the rubble, and whereas they know al-Qurayshi and his household died, they cannot rule out the likelihood that different our bodies have been hidden within the collapse and never seen by the troops.

Talking to a small group of reporters, two senior army officers concerned within the planning or execution of the operation offered probably the most particulars so far on the Feb. 2 raid, pushing again in opposition to claims by residents and activist teams that the U.S. operation killed as many as 13 individuals, together with civilians. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a situation for offering the briefing.

The Biden administration and the Pentagon have come below sharp criticism lately for failing to offer proof for numerous nationwide safety claims, together with proof of their efforts to keep away from civilian casualties in operations such because the Syria raid and their account of a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in August.


Questions concerning the administration’s credibility are coming at a essential second as it’s revealing intelligence about Russia’s plans for Ukraine, whereas usually not offering proof to again up its assertions.

A journalist on task for The Related Press in addition to a number of village residents stated they noticed physique elements scattered close to the positioning of the Syria raid, a home within the rebel-held Idlib province. The Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition-run Syrian Civil Protection, first responders also referred to as the White Helmets, stated 13 individuals, together with youngsters and girls, have been killed within the shelling and clashes that ensued after the U.S. commando raid. It’s not clear whether or not these included al-Qurayshi and his household.

On Thursday, the army officers acknowledged they haven’t any video of the home explosion in Syria or of the efforts to get civilians out of the home. Based on the army, a household with 4 youngsters on the primary ground responded to calls from the troops and interpreters and obtained out of the home to security. As they left the home, the explosion tore by the third ground, sending our bodies to the bottom.


Omar Saleh, a resident of a close-by home, stated his doorways and home windows began to rattle to the sound of low-flying plane at 1:10 a.m. native time. He then heard a person, talking Arabic with an Iraqi or Saudi accent by a loudspeaker, urging girls to give up or depart the realm.

The U.S. army, stated one official, didn’t see indications of different noncombatant casualties however can not rule it out as a result of the forces weren’t on the bottom lengthy sufficient to dig by all of the rubble.

Navy officers stated, for the primary time, that individuals in the home shot on the troops earlier than the Individuals began to enter the constructing after the explosion. An IS member, described as a lieutenant of al-Qurayshi’s, and his spouse have been on the second ground, with as many as 5 youngsters. Officers stated U.S. forces killed the militant and his spouse in a gun battle. One was barricaded in a small room and capturing from there; one other fired whereas coming by the door.


The troops safely introduced 4 youngsters from the second ground out of the home. However a toddler was discovered lifeless there, and the army officers stated Thursday that it isn’t sure how the kid died. They stated no gunshot wounds have been discovered and that the kid was doubtless killed by the concussive results of the third-floor explosion and never shot within the gunfight.

Based on the AP journalist who went to the positioning, blood could possibly be seen on the partitions and ground of the remaining construction, which contained a wrecked bed room with a baby’s picket cribr. On one broken wall, a blue plastic youngsters’s swing was nonetheless hanging. The kitchen was blackened with fireplace harm.

The officers stated two al-Qaida-linked militants with automated weapons approached the home in an effort to assault the U.S. forces and have been killed. However the officers stated different armed residents within the space weren’t harmed as a result of they didn’t pose a risk.


Explaining the shortage of video of the home explosion, the officers stated the crew was watching the constructing and overhead surveillance was targeted on the encircling space to detect any potential threats to the drive. They stated there’s additionally no body-cam video.

The officers additionally revealed that the U.S., which wished to seize al-Qurayshi alive, had made plans to show him over to a different authorities. One official stated the U.S. would have detained him quickly, however there have been no plans for a long-term U.S. detention. They declined to offer additional particulars, saying they wished to guard “government-to-government” discussions.

Al-Qurayshi took over as head of IS in October 2019, simply days after chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died throughout a U.S. raid. Officers stated planning for the brand new raid started final fall when the U.S. first realized of al-Qurayshi’s presence within the constructing.

In contrast to his predecessor, al-Qurayshi was removed from a family identify. He was a secretive man who officers stated by no means left the home throughout the months that the U.S. watched and ready for the raid. Officers stated they thought that they had an excellent likelihood at taking him alive as a result of he solely had one leg, which they believed would make it troublesome for him to get to a suicide vest.


The blast, they stated, was a lot bigger than one from a daily suicide vest, which regularly holds simply 5 or 10 kilos of explosives.

They stated they selected a floor raid with a purpose to keep away from harmless deaths, regardless of the elevated danger to the forces.


Ghaith Alsayed, a journalist on task for The Related Press, contributed to this report from Idlib, Syria.

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