How the US finally took down so-called Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi

The leader of so-called Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, has been killed in a US military operation in the northwestern Idlib province of Syria.

US Correspondent Emma Murphy explains what happened in attack ordered by US President Joe Biden in the early hours of Thursday.

It was just after 1am on Alkarasi Street in Idlib, Syria and families inside the three-storey house were home for the night.

On the first floor, a mother and father were sleeping near their children. On the second floor, a so-called Islamic State (IS) lieutenant was with his wife and their children.

The leader of IS was at home with his wife and family on the third floor.

Some 6,000 miles away in Washington DC, it was 5pm. US President Joe Biden was also home, in the White House.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi

As the American strike team helicopters approached Idlib, Mr Biden went to the Situation Room to monitor the attack he had ordered. He’d given the order for the strike on Tuesday morning in the Oval Office. It was based on intelligence that had been gathered since December.

President Biden knew that, alongside one of American’s most high-value targets, there were many civilians. Officials say that’s why he chose to deploy American special forces on the ground, rather than send in a drone.

The aftermath of the explosion, in which children were killed. Credit: Asaad Al Asaad

The president and his advisors knew the playbook of previous IS leaders and had bargained that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi may blow himself up to avoid being killed by his enemy or captured. They had modelled the house and assessed it would not collapse if he did.

The first those in Idlib knew that something was underway was when the windows began to shake and the sound of low flying aircraft could be heard in the night. Three helicopters were on approach. Next, through loudspeakers women and children were told to flee, to leave their homes and move away from the area. A message was sent directly to the family on the first floor. They fled outside and were taken to safety.

People inspect the destroyed house following the explosion. Credit: Asaad Al Asaad

Shortly after a huge explosion detonated on the third floor. It was so large it blew bodies out of the house itself. Al-Qurayshi had apparently blown himself up along with his family. It is still unclear how many of his children were with him.

On the second floor, the man who had assisted al-Qurayshi barricaded himself in. He and his wife opened fire on the attack force and were killed in a gun battle. Four children then fled from the building.

The IS leader was living with his family on the top floor of the building. Credit: Asaad Al Asaad

After two hours the US assault team boarded their helicopters and took off. On Alkarasi St the remains of those killed by al-Qurayshi were gathered up.

In the White House, the president left the Situation Room, his parting words: “God bless our troops.”