When US forces flew over Atme, Syria, where the ISIS leader was holed up, local Mahmoud Shehadeh mistaken the sound of helicopters for a storm.
As he went outside to check the weather, he was taken aback by what he saw. Several helicopters swarmed a neighbouring house about half an hour later on Thursday, their loudspeakers blasting instructions to inhabitants.
“After ten minutes, we heard them saying (to a woman): ‘turn yourself in, the home is surrounded,'” Mahmoud told AFP, just after ISIS boss Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi blew himself up during a US-led operation.
“I’m not sure if she gave up.”
Residents in Atme, a Syrian town near the Turkish border in the northeastern Idlib region, heard gunfire from the gunships.
Before the elite US-led soldiers entered Qurashi’s house, this carried on for almost two hours.
Civilians were among at least 13 persons killed in the operation, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
Residents initially mistook US personnel for an Al-Qaeda leader when the landing began.
In recent months, US special forces have conducted a number of operations in the Idlib area against high-value Islamist targets.
More than three million people live in the area, which is governed by jihadists and is the last enclave actively opposing Syrian President Bashar al-government. Assad’s
For security considerations, Abu Ali, a displaced Syrian who lives nearby, declined to offer his full name.
According to what he heard from American forces “‘Don’t be concerned,’ says the narrator. We’re only stopping by to clear out the terrorists from your home.’ “,
– The driver of a taxi cab –
Residents of Atme were taken aback when they learned that their next-door neighbour, who lived in a humble two-story house surrounded by olive trees, was the ISIS leader.
He was residing there with his family and sister, one of the world’s most sought men.
The news even perplexed his landlord, Mohamed al-Sheikh. He was under the impression that he had rented the residence to a cab driver.
Photographs taken by AFP correspondents show a modest room with foam beds, blankets, colourful clothing, and children’s toys.
A black plume of smoke billowed out of the first level, towards the partially fallen rooftop, according to footage taken after the operation. Blood was splashed all over the wall and floor in the next room.
Qurashi detonated a device during the raid, killing himself and family members, including women and children, according to US President Joe Biden, who recounted the operation on television.
Qurashi rented the house a year ago, according to Al-Sheikh.
With his wife and three children, he shared the bottom floor. The first level was occupied by his sister and her child.
“For 11 months, this man resided in this residence. There was nothing unusual about him that I noticed “According to Al-Sheikh,
“He’d pay my rent and then walk away.”
Al-Sheikh said his tenant was gathering olives near the house the last time he saw him. Qurashi sat down for a discussion after bringing him a cup of coffee.
Al-Sheikh described him as “a laid-back, compassionate, and upbeat individual.”
He stated he always dressed in the same clothes: slacks, a shirt, a vest, and a headscarf.
“The Destroyer” was Qurashi’s moniker, and he was known for his ruthlessness. He was a key figure in the Islamist effort in Iraq in 2014 to murder and enslave Yazidis.
His calm demeanour and steady temperament kept any suspicions at bay.
His landlord is unhappy about his damaged residence now that his name has been discovered.
“I would not have allowed him live in my house if I had known about him,” he claimed.