Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi killed in US military operation in Syria

US Correspondent Emma Murphy explains what happened in the attack, which was ordered by president Joe Biden in the early hours of Thursday

The leader of ISIS (also known as Islamic State or IS) has been killed in a US military operation in the northwestern Idlib province of Syria.

President Joe Biden confirmed "US military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation" on Wednesday night, adding: "We have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi - the leader of ISIS."

A US official said the ISIS leader died by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family (including women and children) as US forces approached.

President Biden said all US troops involved had returned safely, and added the mission was carried out to "protect the American people and our Allies".

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi

The operation came as IS has been trying for a resurgence, with a series of attacks in the region, including a 10-day assault late last month to seize a prison.

Residents said helicopters flew overhead in the early hours of Thursday morning, as US forces clashed with gunmen for more than two hours around a two-story house surrounded by olive trees.

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

There was at least one major explosion. A US official said one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a mechanical problem and had to be blown up on the ground.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the military operation.

First responders at the scene reported 13 people were killed, including six children and four women. The Pentagon provided no details on casualties in the raid.

Residents nearby described continuous gunfire and explosions in the village near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war.

Photographs show the top floor of the house was almost totally destroyed in the raid, with the ceiling and walls knocked out.

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

Idlib is largely controlled by Turkish-backed fighters but is also an al-Qaida stronghold and home to several of its top operatives. Other militants, including extremists from the rival IS group, have also found refuge in the region.

The US has in the past used drones to kill top al-Qaida operatives in Idlib. The fact that special forces landed on the ground suggest the target was believed to be of high value.

A similar attack in Pakistan, in 2011, killed al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden.