Biden blames ISIS leader for blowing himself up, killing family
President Biden on Thursday blamed the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, for killing members of his family by blowing himself up as U.S. troops closed in on his home in Syria.
“We do know that as our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardness, with no regard to the lives of his own families or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.
“Not just at the 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,” he added.
The president said that the team is still compiling a full report about the raid that occurred overnight Thursday. He thanked the team of troops for carrying out the mission, calling it successful.
“Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more. Our forces carried out the operation with their signature preparation and precision, and I directed the Department of Defense to take every precaution possible to minimize civilian casualties,” he said.
Biden said the U.S. military chose a raid over an air strike because al-Qurayshi was with families, a choice Biden said was intended to minimize civilian casualties.
“Knowing that this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, 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 air strike,” he said.
A senior administration official told reporters earlier that al-Qurayshi died during the operation by detonating a bomb that killed himself and members of his family on the third floor of the residence where it took place.
Officials said that the raid also took out an ISIS lieutenant, who barricaded himself on the second floor of the building and engaged in a firefight with U.S. forces.
The Pentagon called the mission successful on Wednesday and said that there were no American casualties. Thirteen people, including women and children, were reportedly killed, though a senior administration official disputed public reports about casualties, saying a family and children were evacuated safely from the dwelling where the raid occurred.
Biden, in his remarks, noted that al-Qurayshi took over as the global leader of ISIS in 2019 after a U.S. counterterrorism operation killed the group’s former leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Since then, ISIS has directed terrorist operations targeting Americans, our allies and our partners, and countless civilians in the Middle East, Africa and in South Asia,” Biden said.
Biden added that al-Qurayshi oversaw the spread of ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups globally, savaged communities and murdered innocents. He also was responsible for a recent attack on a prison in northeast Syria.
The president said that U.S. forces “skillfully executed this incredibly challenging mission” and called the members of the military “the backbone of this nation.”
Biden said the U.S. is aided by the partnership of the Syrian Democratic Forces and commended the intelligence community, the Department of Defense and members of his national security team.
He said their “meticulous and tireless work over the course of many months ensured that this mission succeeded.”
The raid was months in the making, according to a second senior administration official, who said that the president was first briefed over a month ago by operational commanders. Biden gave the final order to conduct the operation during an Oval Office meeting Tuesday morning with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
The president ended with a warning against terrorists globally.
“We remain vigilant, we remain prepared,” he said. “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.”
In a statement earlier on Thursday, Biden said it was a successful “counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place.”
The White House also released a photo of the president, Vice President Harris and Biden’s national security team observing the operation.
Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report.
Updated at 11 a.m.
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