Civilian toll in Syria raid could also be increased than thought

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. navy officers say 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 Thursday they can’t be sure that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi detonated the bomb that killed him and his household at his house 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 flooring 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 kids. The navy officers stated Thursday they imagine the higher flooring was rigged to blow up and that it is most definitely al-Qurayshi did it, not one among his members of the family.

Additionally they stated it is doable that others — maybe extra 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 navy officers concerned within the planning or execution of the operation supplied probably the most particulars to this point 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 folks, together with civilians. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a situation for offering the briefing.

The Biden administration and the Pentagon have come beneath sharp criticism not too long ago for failing to supply proof for quite a lot of 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 important second as it’s revealing intelligence about Russia’s plans for Ukraine, whereas typically 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 components 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 folks, together with kids 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 navy officers acknowledged they don’t have any video of the home explosion in Syria or of the efforts to get civilians out of the home. Based on the navy, a household with 4 kids on the primary flooring responded to calls from the troops and interpreters and received out of the home to security. As they left the home, the explosion tore by the third flooring, 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. navy, stated one official, didn’t see indications of different noncombatant casualties however can’t 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 flooring, with as many as 5 kids. 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 kids from the second flooring out of the home. However a toddler was discovered lifeless there, and the navy 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 possible 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 may very well be seen on the partitions and flooring of the remaining construction, which contained a wrecked bed room with a toddler’s wood cribr. On one broken wall, a blue plastic kids’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 menace.