Islamic State leader and family blended in among Syrians uprooted by war

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AMMAN/ATMEH, Syria (Reuters) – In a nook of Syria filled with individuals uprooted by 11 years of civil war, the leader of Islamic State and his family hid in plain sight: they stored to themselves, neighbours didn’t pry into one another’s previous, the hire was paid on time.

The establishment was shattered on Thursday evening, when U.S. particular forces swept into the city of Atmeh in northwest Syria to raid his hideout.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, head of one of many world’s most feared militant teams, blew himself as much as evade seize, killing a number of family members and others in the blast, in accordance with the United States.

His loss of life marks a blow to Islamic State as its fighters reemerge as a lethal risk in Syria and Iraq.

Until that time, locals believed that Quraishi was a Syrian service provider from Aleppo who had introduced his family to the relative security of Atmeh close to the Turkish border, removed from the frontlines of the Syrian battle.

There was little to attract consideration to the three-storey constructing on the sting of city since Quraishi, an Iraqi, rented an condominium there a yr in the past, taking the primary ground initially earlier than increasing to hire the highest one too.

The youngsters have been typically effectively behaved and stored out of sight, generally accompanying their mom to the outlets, stated a girl who lived on the bottom ground and knew her neighbours as “the family of Abu Ahmed”.

“They stored to themselves and our youngsters performed with their youngsters often outdoors, however we by no means socialised with them,” the lady, who gave her title as Ameena, stated in a cellphone interview. She declined to offer her full title for worry of retribution.

Ameena stated she was as soon as invited for tea by one among Quraishi’s wives, Um Ahmad. She advised Ameena her husband was a dealer from Aleppo who had fled town in the course of the war. With hindsight, Ameena stated she was struck by how hardly ever she noticed him.

The girls wore all-enveloping black robes, typical of conservative Muslims.

While the family weren’t from Atmeh, this didn’t draw consideration in an space the place tens of hundreds of individuals have fled from everywhere in the nation.

“We thought they may have gone via rather a lot, however as you realize, right here everybody has a tragedy and individuals hardly ever communicate of what occurred to them these years and everybody prefers to maintain to themselves,” Ameena stated.

HIDING NEAR THE ENEMY

Quraishi took over the management of Islamic State following the loss of life in 2019 of its founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who additionally died throughout a raid by U.S. commandos when he detonated explosives.

Baghdadi had additionally been hiding in northwest Syria, the final main bastion of rebels combating President Bashar al-Assad. Baghdadi’s hideout was some 25 km (15 miles) from Atmeh, additionally in Idlib province.

Quraishi’s hideout was near a checkpoint operated by the armed group that controls many of the Idlib space – Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist faction previously often known as the Nusra Front that has been an Islamic State adversary for years.

It was additionally not removed from Turkish troop positions in the close by Afrin space of northwestern Syria.

Despite the shut proximity of hostile forces, this was a comparatively good hiding place for Quraishi as he sought to revive the fortunes of Islamic State, which managed a 3rd of Iraq and Syria in 2014 earlier than being overwhelmed into retreat.

Syrians say it’s simple for strangers to go unnoticed. Beyond the internally displaced, the realm additionally hosts international Islamists who travelled to the nation in the course of the war both as fighters or civilian volunteers.

Last October, one other senior Islamic State leader, Sami Jasim, was captured in northwestern Syria in an Iraqi operation carried out with Turkish assist.

A senior White House official stated the blast was believed to have killed Quraishi, his two wives and a toddler on one ground, and probably a toddler who was on one other ground with Quraishi’s lieutenant and his spouse, who have been killed after firing on U.S. forces.

Syrian rescue employees stated 13 individuals have been killed after the raid started, together with 4 girls and six youngsters.

Neighbours stated 4 youngsters have been rescued after the assault – a 12-year-old woman, boys aged 7 and 4 and an toddler. It was not clear in the event that they have been associated to Quraishi. The badly broken flats have been strewn with youngsters’s toys, witnesses added.

The U.S. official stated Quraishi had been utilizing the home and an unwitting family dwelling on the primary ground as a “protecting defend,” an element that difficult planning for the raid.

The landlord’s son advised Reuters that every condominium was rented for $160 a month.

“My dad entrusted me to take the hire and if he (Quraishi) had water or electrical energy or Internet points we would assist him. We did not know extra about him,” the son, who gave his title as Abu Omar, stated.

Ahmed al Saloum, a 56-year-old carpenter who lived close by, stated he usually noticed a girl hanging laundry from a second ground balcony. “They by no means aroused any suspicion,” he stated.

(Additional reporting by Mahmoud Hassano in Atmeh; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mike Collett-White)



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