Helicopter-borne US special operations troops have carried out a rare commando raid in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province, killing at least 13 people, mostly women and children.
The deadly raid took place in the town of Atme, close to the Syrian border with Turkey, on Wednesday night.
Citing local sources, the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster said on Thursday that at least 13 people, including six children and four women, were killed in the US attack in Idlib, the last militant-held stronghold after almost 11 years of foreign-backed war on Syria.
One resident said emergency rescuers pulled out the bodies of the victims from the rubble of a multi-story building.
“We woke up at 1am to the sound of helicopters … and then at around 3am we heard a barrage of attacks,” Abu Fahed al-Homsi, a displaced Syrian who lives a block away from the target, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“We saw a house that was targeted and damaged roads, but we still have no idea what was going on.”
Heavy gunfire was also heard during the raid, which according to Reuters was believed to have targeted a suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated militant, but there was no other information on his identity and fate.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the “mission was successful,” without providing details on who was the target of the assault.
“US Special Operations forces under the control of US Central Command conducted a counterterrorism mission this evening in northwest Syria. The mission was successful. There were no US casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
US President Joe Biden later in the day claimed that a Daesh leader, identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, was killed in the raid.
An unidentified US official also said the purported Daesh leader blew himself and his family, including children, up before being taken in by the US forces.
American helicopter loudspeakers blared warnings in Arabic for women and children inside the house to evacuate, according to social media and witness accounts. After about two hours, a major battle erupted in the area.
One of the helicopters used in the operation experienced a mechanical problem and then had to be blown up on the ground by US forces, an American official said.
In December 2021, a US drone strike in Idlib killed an al-Qaeda leader on a motorcycle and injured a Syrian family in a car close to it.
The US Central Command opened an investigation into the incident, the results of which have not yet been made public.
Idlib Province and its nearby areas are mostly held by the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terror outfit, formerly al-Nusra Front, which was part of al-Qaeda until 2016.