Civilian toll in Syria raid could also be larger than thought

WASHINGTON – U.S. navy officers mentioned 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 consider any such deaths have been attributable to 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 mentioned 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 mentioned 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 mentioned al-Qurayshi blew up himself, his spouse and two youngsters. The navy officers mentioned Thursday they consider the higher flooring was rigged to blow up and that it is probably al-Qurayshi did it, not considered one of his relations.


In addition they mentioned it is doable that others — maybe extra wives he had — may have been with him and killed in that blast. They mentioned 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 chance that different our bodies have been hidden within the collapse and never seen by the troops.

Chatting with a small group of reporters, two senior navy officers concerned within the planning or execution of the operation supplied probably the most particulars thus far on the Feb. 2 raid, pushing again towards 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 underneath sharp criticism just lately for failing to offer proof for various 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 in regards to the administration’s credibility are coming at a essential 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 project for The Related Press in addition to a number of village residents mentioned they noticed physique elements scattered close to the location 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 often known as the White Helmets, mentioned 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 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 youngsters on the primary flooring 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 way of the third flooring, sending our bodies to the bottom.


Omar Saleh, a resident of a close-by home, mentioned 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 way of a loudspeaker, urging ladies to give up or go away the realm.

The U.S. navy, mentioned 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 way of all of the rubble.

Navy officers mentioned, for the primary time, that folks in the home shot on the troops earlier than the People 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 youngsters. Officers mentioned 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 way of the door.


The troops safely introduced 4 youngsters from the second flooring out of the home. However a toddler was discovered lifeless there, and the navy officers mentioned Thursday that it isn’t sure how the kid died. They mentioned no gunshot wounds have been discovered and that the kid was seemingly 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 location, blood might be seen on the partitions and flooring 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 hearth injury.

The officers mentioned 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 mentioned different armed residents within the space weren’t harmed as a result of they didn’t pose a menace.


Explaining the shortage of video of the home explosion, the officers mentioned the crew was watching the constructing and overhead surveillance was targeted on the encircling space to detect any potential threats to the power. They mentioned 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 mentioned the U.S. would have detained him briefly, 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 mentioned planning for the brand new raid started final fall when the U.S. first discovered of al-Qurayshi’s presence within the constructing.

Not like his predecessor, al-Qurayshi was removed from a family title. He was a secretive man who officers mentioned by no means left the home through the months that the U.S. watched and ready for the raid. Officers mentioned they thought that they had a great 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 mentioned, was a lot bigger than one from a daily suicide vest, which frequently holds simply 5 or 10 kilos of explosives.

They mentioned they selected a floor raid to be able to keep away from harmless deaths, regardless of the elevated danger to the forces.


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

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