President Joe Biden on Thursday said that ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed during a counterterrorism raid by U.S. special operations forces in northwest Syria, noting that the mission "removed a major terrorism threat from the world."
According to the Pentagon, the forces conducted a "successful" large-scale counterterrorism raid in northwestern Syria.
"Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in the northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place," Biden said in a White House statement. "Thanks to the skill and bravery of our Armed Forces, we have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi—the leader of ISIS. All Americans have returned safely from the operation. I will deliver remarks to the American people later this morning. May God protect our troops."
Residents and activists reported multiple deaths — including civilians — from the attack overnight Thursday. Both CNN and The Associated Press report that 13 people were killed — including six children and four women.
In brief remarks at the White House on Thursday, Biden said that he directed a special operations mission rather than a drone strike. Though the decision put U.S. troops at higher risk, he said military leaders were prioritizing civilian lives, as al-Hashimi had surrounded himself with family members.
Biden added that in a "final act of desperate cowardice," the ISIS leader detonated a bomb as U.S. forces closed in, killing several members of his family.
No U.S. servicemembers were killed in the raid.
"Our forces carried out the operation with their signature precision and preparation," Biden said.
Several residents told The Associated Press they saw body parts scattered near the house that was raided in the village of Atmeh, in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province near the border with Turkey.
They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
CNN spoke to witnesses and rescue workers who said the operation targeted a house in Atmeh, near the Turkish-Syrian border. The area reportedly contains a heavy presence of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham fighters, who were formerly affiliated with al Qaeda.
Thursday's raid took place in the same region where U.S. forces killed former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid ordered by then-President Donald Trump.
The death of the ISIS leader comes just a week after ISIS prisoners led a high-profile, days-long siege of a jail in the northwest Syrian city of Hasakah. The raid prompted worldwide concerns of ISIS' return of influence in the region.