Up to nine civilians including two women and three children were reported killed in the US military operation that successfully targeted ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in Barisha village in Idlib countryside, Syria, on October 26th, 2019.
Al-Baghdadi was an ISIS leader who declared himself a Caliphate in Mosul, Iraq in 2014, and according to local sources was killed in an overnight raid, and that whole operation lasted for around four hours.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SNHR), U.S. helicopters came from Turkish territories, carried out a landing in the area and clashed with militants near the targeted house of al-Baghdadi west of Barisha where many casualties were reported. Among the nine alleged civilian deaths were two or three women and up to three children. The Observatory said it believed the death toll was bound to rise because there had been many other injuries with victims in a serious condition. Local sources also mentioned that the targeted area was a few kilometers away from Tor Laha where a camp for internally displaced persons is located.
US President Trump and an official from the Pentagon said that al-Baghdadi blew himself up after hiding in a dead-end tunnel killing himself, with family members around him. In his statement addressing the US people after the operation, Trump said al-Baghdadi dragged three of his children with him to the tunnel where they were killed with him after he blew himself up. He also mentioned that 11 children were taken out of the area uninjured. However, Newsweek, reporting US Defense officials said that only al-Baghdadi’s wife was killed in the operation but none of his children were injured. Other Pentagon sources claimed that al-Baghdadi’s two wives were killed by blowing themselves up with explosive vests, but none of his children were injured.
Describing the scene of the operation, local medical sources said that as a result of the operation, a house was completely destroyed and a number of tents were burned. Seven bodies were found in the area, among them bodies of a child and three women, in addition to five injuries.
According to Shbabbek.com, among seven bodies found near the area, three of them belong to civilians who happened to be passing by during the time of the operation, and that many cars moving around were targeted. Reuters also reported that the bodies of three men and three women were found in addition to al-Baghdadi’s. His companion and security man Ghazawan Arrawi is also believed to have been killed in the operation.
A report published by NPR on December 3rd 2019, said locals reported the killing of two civilians and the injury of a third one in the Coalition airstrike that killed Al Baghdadi. “Syrians say civilians were killed and wounded during the U.S. raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. That contradicts the account by the U.S. military, which says it’s looking into the matter.”
The report tells that two relatives of their contact in Syria – who lives abroad – were killed. Mother of one of those killed said that “her son and his cousin were driving through the village of Barisha when their van was hit.”
“Relatives identify them as Khaled Mustafa Qurmo and Khaled Abdel Majid Qurmo; cousins, 27 and 30 years old. Their relatives say another man named Barakat Barakat was also in the car, and his hand was blown off.”
Barakat, the only survivor in the van narrates what happened: “I was with my best friends. They wanted to drop me off at home. We had pumpkin seeds and bought coffee on the road and were having fun. We were driving through the village of Barisha. And at that moment, the helicopters arrived. Suddenly, we were hit. I didn’t know what was going on. I was just trying to escape death.”
The incident occured between 11:00 pm and 3:30 am local time.