• The ISIS leader exploded a bomb as U.S. troops approached his compound
  • U.S. forces were urged to take 'every precaution possible' to prevent civilian casualties
  • The entire operation was complete in about two hours: Pentagon spokesman

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic State or ISIS, killed his family and himself during a U.S. counterterrorism raid in northwest Syria, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

U.S. forces in Syria were approaching a compound when Al-Qurayshi, also known as Hajji Abdullah, exploded a bomb that killed him and members of his family, including women and children.

“In a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard to the lives of his family or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up … taking several members of his family with him — just as his predecessor did,” Biden said, referring to former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Speaking from the White House, the president added that he has urged the Department of Defense to take “every precaution possible” to prevent the deaths of civilians.

“Knowing this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a special forces raid, with greater risk to our own people, rather than targeting him with an airstrike,” Biden said.

The entire operation, which took months of planning, was complete in about two hours, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. During the raid, U.S. troops had to abandon and detonate an American helicopter after it experienced “mechanical issues.”

The number of casualties in the suicide bombing was not immediately clear as the Syrian civil defense group the White Helmets said 13 people, including six children and four women, were killed. However, Kirby said four civilians and five combatants died during the raid.

The five combatants included al-Qurayshi, his deputy, his deputy’s wife and two other individuals who exchanged fire with U.S. troops.

It is unclear why there is a wide discrepancy in the numbers reported by the Pentagon and the White Helmets.

The raid comes months after senior administration officials learned that al-Qurayshi had been living on the third floor of the compound with his family. The ISIS leader reportedly never left the compound and instead chose to run the terror organization through a network of couriers. Several families also lived on the first floor of the compound but had no knowledge that there was a terrorist living in the same building.

Turkey encouraged thousands of migrants to cross into Greece during a diplomatic crisis with the European Union in March 2020
Turkey encouraged thousands of migrants to cross into Greece during a diplomatic crisis with the European Union in March 2020 AFP / Ozan KOSE