By Shelby Talcott
President Joe Biden touted the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in remarks Thursday and vowed to “protect Americans from terrorist threats.”
U.S. special operations forces conducted a late-night raid Wednesday evening in northwest Syria, resulting al-Qurayshi’s death. While there were no U.S. casualties, multiple people – including children and women – were killed when al-Qurayshi detonated a suicide vest mid-raid, Biden and U.S. senior administration officials said.
“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 than to our own people rather than targeting him with an airstrike. We made this choice to minimize civilian casualties,” the president, speaking at the White House on Thursday morning, told the nation.
One senior administration official explained how al-Qurayshi “seemed to purposefully live in a residential building with” what officials believe were innocent families on the first floor, making the goal of minimizing civilian casualties harder. (RELATED: U.S. Forces Kill Another Top ISIS Official)
He “never left the house,” an official said. “He commanded by couriers who came and went. He used these innocent people as his shield.”
The raid was months in the making, with Biden ultimately giving Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin the “final go” Tuesday morning in the Oval Office, according to officials.
“This operation is a testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they try to hide – anywhere in the world. I’m determined to protect Americans from terrorist threats. And I’ll take decisive action to protect this country,” Biden added during his remarks.
Biden called U.S. military members “the solid backbone of this nation” and highlighted the families of service members as well.
“The members of our military are the solid steel backbone of this nation. Ready to fly into danger at a moment’s notice to keep our country and the American people safe as well as our allies,” Biden said. “And I’m also grateful to the families of our service members. You served right alongside these soldiers and sailors, marines, and loved ones giving them the strength and support they need to do what they do.”