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Syrian Archive

INVESTIGATIONS

The US raid in Atmeh

July 27, 2022

An investigation into the US Raid in northern Syria against Islamic State Leader Al Qurashi

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Initial Summary

  • Place of incident: Idlib: Atmeh
  • Impact site: A three-storey building in northern Atmeh
  • Date: 3 February 2022
  • Time: Between 00:00 - 03:00 local time
  • Victims: At least 9 civilians killed and one injured in the raid including women and children
  • Type of attack: A ground and air raid using helicopters, some Black Hawk Helicopters
  • Munitions likely used: SSmall arms, flashbangs, and other small explosives
  • Potentially Responsible: United States forces led this raid to kill Islamic State leader Al Qurashi

Introduction

In the early morning of 3 February 2022, United States forces conducted a raid on a three storey building in the town of Atmeh in northwest Syria. The third floor apartment in the building was the home of Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurashi (also referred to as Hajji Abdullah), reported target of the raid. The building also housed civilians, including women and children, on all three floors. The raid and subsequent clashes between those in and outside the building killed multiple civilians, including women and children.

Methodology

Syrian Archive conducted an investigation into the incident by:

  • Preserving, analysing, and verifying 157 videos, pictures, and reports uploaded online showing the incident site, the incident as it occurred, and its aftermath, including casualties, munition remnants, and damage to the building;
  • Analysing 13 videos and pictures captured by a Syrian Archive researcher at the impact site;
  • Researching and identifying munitions shown in videos and pictures uploaded to social media;
  • Examining satellite imagery showing the incident site and other relevant locations; and
  • Analysing flight data for the presence of aircraft above the incident site at the time of the incident.

The investigations team drew from lead information collected by a number of organisations and analysts.

This investigation is a summary of multiple stages of analysis of available open source information. These sources provided the team with information related to the date, timing, location, victims, and impact of the attack. By examining all available information about the attack, the investigation team developed an understanding of the incident.

Pictures and videos were captured by a Syrian Archive researcher on the ground five days after the incident occurred. Within those five days, appliances, clothes, and other belongings of the building’s residents were removed or cleaned. The pictures and videos taken by a Syrian Archive researcher on the ground featured in this report are being used to highlight key features of the site that are consistent across open source content from 3 February and photos taken by a Syrian Archive researcher on 8 February.

For more details about Syrian Archive’s methodology, please visit our site.

About Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurashi

Born near Mosul, Iraq, Al Qurashi joined Al Qaeda in the early 2000’s and, after the establishment of the Islamic State (IS), became the general sharia and deputy governor of Mosul. In 2008, Al Qurashi was arrested by United States forces in a raid on his home and was placed in prison. After his release, Al Qurashi became a judge in Mosul and was asked to establish an institute to prepare future judges in Sharia law. Al Qurashi is said to be responsible for promoting the capturing of Yazidi women in Iraq. Subject to several assassination attempts, Al Qurashi went into hiding following the territorial defeat of IS, moving between different houses in northwest Syria and in 2019 he was nominated as successor for the head of the Islamic State. The United States government was pursuing Al Qurashi before he assumed leadership of the Islamic State, allocating 5 million US dollars for information on his whereabouts or role in the genocide of Yazidis. In March 2020, the United States government designated Al Qurashi a global terrorist.

About Atmeh, Syria

Atmeh is a town in the Idlib governorate on Syria’s border with Turkey. The town is home to two large internally displaced persons (IDP) camps whose populations have surged since the recent concentration of attacks on civilian centres in the Idlib governorate.

Satellite imagery from 2015 and 2020 of Atmeh and the surrounding IDP camps

Situated next to a border crossing with Turkey, Atmeh is largely under the control of opposition groups and other affiliated forces. The Syrian and Russian government have attacked civilian areas around Atmeh and the neighbouring town Qah. Syrian Archive investigated two recent instances of attacks on a fuel station south of Atmeh and attack on tents in the Qah IDP camp east of Atmeh.

The Building Hit

The centre of this incident is the home of Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurashi (also referred to as Hajji Abdullah) and two other families. The home is located in Atmeh, around 2 km east of the Turkish border.

image37 Syrian Archive geolocated the building using drone footage posted online and satellite imagery from Maxar captured on 22 November 2021

According to the Syrian Civil Defence, the United States government, witnesses interviewed by news sources, and videos online showing the incident site, the building hit consists of a ground/first floor, a second floor, and a third floor.

Residents of the ground/first floor

image42 A picture of the door to the ground/first floor from a video report on the attack by Salam News

On the first floor lived an “adult male, an adult female and — and four children,” according to the United States government. A woman who claims to have been living on the first floor of the building was interviewed a number of times, as described later in this report, by a variety of local news outlets. In the interviews, she told reporters her husband and children were in their home at the time of the attack. She mentions only knowing the man who lived above her, named “Abu Ahmed.” A man and child also reportedly living on the first floor were interviewed in a video report by Al Sharq News Agency.

Residents off the second floor

Pictures of rooms on the building’s second floor from Al Jazeera Mubasher’s report on the attack

According to the United States government, Al Qurashi’s “lieutenant” lived on the second floor of the building with his wife and five children. In an interview, the woman living on the first floor also mentions that the man living above her, “Abu Ahmed,” lived with his wife and five children. In a report on the attack, Syria TV writes that a man from Aleppo was renting the house and lived on the second floor with his wife and three children. A witness in a red scarf interviewed by a number of local news outlets claimed that the man renting the house was from Aleppo and lived on the building’s second floor with his wife and three small children. Pictures of the house’s rental contract – not linked here by Syrian Archive in order to protect the privacy of the building’s owner – shows that a man named Mustafa rented the second floor of the building on 6 March 2021 to live in with his family. The man reportedly worked in “food transportation” and “car maintenance” in the nearby city of Sarmada. According to the contract, three months later Mustafa leased the building’s third floor.

According to the United States government, the lieutenant, reportedly from Aleppo, may be Abu Ahmed Al Halabi (also known as Abu Ahmed Hawut) who was close to Al Qurashi and head of Islamic State intelligence (or Mukhabarat) in Aleppo.

Residents of the third floor

Pictures of the building’s third floor, posted by Orient News and Twitter user Abdelwahab

Further describing the residents of the building, the witness in the red scarf claimed that the sister of the man living on the second floor (known as “Abu Ahmed”) lived with her daughter on the building’s third floor. According to the United States government, Al Qurashi, his wife, and their three children lived on the third floor of the building. Witnesses in news reports claim Al Qurashi and his family moved into the building after “Abu Ahmed” rented the third floor of the house.

A neighbour interviewed by Al Hurra news says he saw little to no activity from around the house and rarely saw those living there. Another man interviewed by Al Hurra news who reportedly is the owner of the building said he did not know a terrorist was living in his building.

Timeline

Shortly after the raid on 3 February 2022, the Syrian Civil Defence, the United States government, and a number of news sources released statements and reports on the incident including a timeline of the raid. Below is a general timeline of events based on reported claims, some of which have been confirmed by visual information analysed by Syrian Archive and taken by a Syrian Archive researcher who visited the impact site.

Helicopters above Atmeh, around midnight

The United States government stated, in a press briefing with Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby, that the raid in Atmeh occurred at night. The Syrian Civil Defence reported that an “airborne raid” occurred after midnight. Similarly, Syria TV reported three “Apache helicopters” flew from Iraq and began striking the home of Al Qurashi at 01:11 local.

Tweets at 00:22 alert of an attack in Atmeh.

The Syrian Observatory Telegram channel reported at 00:04 on 3 February 2022 a sighting of three helicopters flying west over Qah, a town around 4.5 km southeast of Al Qurashi’s home. The observatory reports helicopters circling around Qah until 02:09 when the helicopters were spotted flying north. From 02:09 to 04:09, the observatory reports “reconnaissance aircraft” circling above Qah.

Claims of reconnaissance aircraft above Atmeh are consistent with data from flight tracker FlightRadar24, which shows a number of planes circling around and near Atmeh throughout the night of the attack.

image58 The flight paths of likely reconnaissance planes circling around and near Atmeh at around 01:00 local time

Videos found online show the presence of helicopters allegedly above Atmeh. Because these videos were taken at night, Syrian Archive was unable to identify clear geographical features and verify where exactly these videos were filmed. Although dark, livestream videos uploaded by Facebook user “‎اعلامي مخيمات أطمة‎,” Al Jazeera Syria, and YouTube channel “عمر نزهت” show explosions and include what may be the sounds of helicopters and gunfire. The livestream videos from user “‎اعلامي مخيمات أطمة‎” were uploaded at 00:41 and 01:02 local time. The livestream from Al Jazeera Syria was uploaded at 01:03 local time. The livestream from “عمر نزهت” was at 02:41 local time. These timestamps confirm reports that the raid likely started at around 01:00 and continued into the early morning of February 3.

Other videos uploaded online that reportedly document this incident also include what may be the sound of helicopters and gunfire. In a video report filmed at night and uploaded at 01:51 local time, an Orient News correspondent described the events, mentioning around 4 helicopters above Atmeh and large explosions.

Witnesses interviewed in video reports on the attack confirm it occurred after midnight on February 3. A man living at the Atmeh IDP camps, interviewed by Salam News, describes seeing two helicopters circling above Atmeh at 01:00. Another witness of the operation, interviewed by Halab Today, states seeing helicopters landing near the house at 01:00 or 01:30. Interviewed by Orient News and others, a witness who lives near Al Qurashi’s building says he heard and saw helicopters circling above Atmeh at around 00:45. Fifteen minutes after circling, the man says the helicopters landed near his home at around 01:00.

Taken together, the discernible content and upload times of these livestreams and videos are consistent with witness claims that helicopters were used in the attack and the attack occurred in the early morning of 3 February 2022.

Evacuation of civilians and explosion, around 01:00

Pentagon officials asserted in a press briefing that United States forces evacuated ten civilians out of the building, including “six from the first floor — an adult male, an adult female and — and four children, and then four children from the second floor.” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby stated, “callouts” using a bullhorn were made “beseeching everybody in that building to leave” as well as to encourage “Mr. Abdullah” to leave the site. Syria TV reports of a soldier calling, in Iraqi Arabic, through a loudspeaker to those inside the building to evacuate or be killed.

Syrian Archive identified multiple videos, which include the sounds of someone speaking into a bullhorn asking for people to exit the building. Two of these videos as well as others show a portion of the building on fire. As examined later in this report, the damage from this fire is shown in footage of the kitchen in the building’s third floor apartment.

A picture from a video showing a room in the building on fire and a picture from a video report by Al Mohrar Media Network of a burned kitchen on the building’s third floor

A woman resident of the building’s ground/first floor, interviewed by Baladi News and Anadolu Agency, described the evacuation. In both interviews, the woman said she heard a call for everyone in the building—women, men, and children—to exit with their hands up or be killed. She said that while still inside, United States forces hit the door with a shell and fired at the building. As described later in this report, the door to the first floor apartment appeared severely damaged in the attack’s aftermath, indicating it may have been hit by explosive material at some point during the incident. Additional damage detailed later in this report also show what appear to be multiple munition impact points on the building’s exterior and interior.

According to this same resident during her media interviews, when she exited the building with her children, the woman’s children were immediately taken from her, she was told to remove her hijab, and to get on the ground. She said United States forces took everyone to trees by the house where her neighbours also were. She said that she and her husband were then beaten and questioned. The resident described that one of the men spoke with an Iraqi accent. The resident described hearing an explosion after leaving the house as well as sounds of gunfire. The resident said she told the soldiers that the only person she knew in the other floors of the building was a man named “Abu Ahmed” on the second floor. She said Abu Ahmed, his wife, and one of their sons was killed in the attack. His remaining 4 children survived the raid, according to the woman. The resident said these events occurred from 01:00 - 03:00.

image41 A Baladi News correspondent interviewing a resident of the first floor about the incident

A man and a child reportedly living on the ground/first floor were also interviewed by Al Sharq News Agency. Their statements were consistent with the ground/first floor resident’s recollection of events. The man described being beaten and interrogated. The child also mentioned being taken near a neighbour’s home and asked questions about his name and the names of his neighbours.

Orient News’ report on the incident includes interviews with two witnesses also featured in several other reports online. The first witness described helicopters landing near his home and soldiers exiting the helicopters. He described a soldier speaking English to a translator who called for those inside the building to evacuate with their children in front of them. The second witness, who stated that he lived near the “Orient Hospital” in Atmeh, described being taken to the home of Al Qurashi and asked about those living in the building.

United States officials claim that shortly after they began calls for those in the building to evacuate, Al Qurashi detonated a bomb on the third floor of the building killing his wife and two children. The woman living on the ground floor, interviewed by Baladi News, described hearing two explosions after evacuating. At this time there exists insufficient open source information for confident analysis and commentary on the United States government’s assertion that Al Qurashi detonated an explosive, killing both himself and his family. No witnesses speaking in open source, online interviews mention Al Qurashi or anyone in the building detonating a bomb. Although some, including the woman living on the first floor of the building, do mention hearing explosions around the time of the evacuation.

‘Hostile engagement’

According to the United States government, after the explosion and evacuation of civilians as well as before leaving the site, Al Qurashi’s “senior lieutenant” living on the second floor and the lieutenant’s wife fired back at United States forces. The government stated that “They were killed, and — and it — it appears as if a — a child was also killed on that second floor.”

A resident of the building’s ground/first floor, mentioned earlier, described gunfire coming from the building’s second floor. Apparent fragmentation marks on the walls of the building’s second floor kitchen and bathroom suggest an attack occurred involving the second floor residents.

The United States government also stated that “a small group of individuals approaching the compound” were deemed as hostile and engaged by United States forces. “Two of them were killed, and that resulted in the end of that hostile activity, the remaining — of — individuals left the site.” The Syrian Civil Defence also references “subsequent clashes” contributing to the total casualty count as a result of the raid. Posts online claim members of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham fired on United States forces. Damage to storefronts and cars around 100 metres southeast of the building – described in the next section of this investigation – appears consistent with these reports of fighting from outside the building.

Syria TV reports two women, on the second and third floors, detonated explosions. Syrian Archive was unable to find any information online at this time including an analysis of videos and pictures showing the second floor to clearly indicate a detonated explosion occurred on the second floor, though additional expert review could provide better insight. Casualty counts from the Syrian Network for Human Rights and Syrian Civil Defense are consistent with claims that Abu Ahmed, his wife, and a child were killed on the second floor.

Posts online, news reports, and witness statements report the operation ended between 02:00 - 03:00.

Aftermath

Syrian Archive catalogued and archived over 150 videos and other posts showing the targeted building after the attack, including videos and pictures taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site. Videos from Syria TV, Shaam News, Thiqa News, Baladna News, Al Jazeera Syria and independent journalists show the building at night directly after the attack, while others show the building in the daylight hours after the incident.

Exterior damage

Videos and pictures show significant damage to the exterior of the building and nearby cars and storefronts, apparently as a result of the attack. Aerial images from Anadolu Agency show the collapsed portion of the building’s third floor and the rubble surrounding the building.

A livestream video on Facebook from Syria TV, posted around seven hours after the attack at 10:44 local time, shows significant damage to the building’s exterior. Specifically, rubble on the building’s northern side, likely from the explosion that collapsed at least one exterior wall on the building’s third floor.

Pictures taken on February 8 by a Syrian Archive researcher of the collapsed third floor roof and rubble from what appears to be an exterior third floor wall

At second 0:07, a video uploaded by Al Mohrar Media shows two impact points on the southern side of the building on the second floor bedroom balcony. Pictures and a video taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the impact site as well as a picture taken by Shaam News Network suggest a third impact on the door to the building’s second floor kitchen balcony, potentially also damaging the door frame to the second floor bathroom behind the kitchen.

Walking on the balcony of the building’s second floor at minute 1:05, an Al Jazeera Mubasher correspondent also points to damage from the building that he claims are from bullets fired at the house. This damage, as well as apparent fragmentation marks inside the second floor apartment are consistent with reports of hostile engagement between United States forces and residents of the second floor. As described later in this report, internal damage to the second floor suggests at least one munition larger than a bullet likely hit the second floor apartment and is responsible for the fragmentation marks inside and outside the apartment.

image25 A picture from a video report by Al Mohrar Media Network of the two impact points on the building’s exterior bedroom balcony

image40 A picture taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site showing the two impact points on the second floor bedroom balcony on the southern side of the building

A picture taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the impact site and a picture from Shaam News showing the blown off door to the balcony near the second floor kitchen

image8 A screenshot from the Al Jazeera Mubasher video showing fragmentation marks on the outer right side of the kitchen balcony door

A Baladi News report on the attack as well as a number of other sources show damage to storefronts around 100 metres southeast of the building. Various online sources also show damage to cars parked by the storefronts as well as directly across from the building hit in the attack. This damage is consistent with the United States government’s claims of hostile engagement from individuals inside and outside the building.

image22 Satellite imagery showing the building that was the centre of the raid identified by the red box and the storefronts and cars damaged in the raid identified by the orange box

image46 A geolocation of damage storefronts shown in a Baladi News report on the raid

image18 A geolocation of damaged cars parked next to the damaged storefronts

Pictures from Baladi News and Anadolu Agency of the damaged car (identified by the red box) directly across from the building hit (identified by the orange box)

Interior damage

Videos and pictures taken after the attack show significant damage to the building’s interior, specifically on the second and third floors, which are the primary subjects of available documentation. Notable damage includes the partial collapse of the building’s third floor, a burned kitchen on the third floor, and markings of what appears to be blood throughout the second and third floor, presumably from those killed during the raid.

Ground/First floor

Pictures from Salam News and Baladi News of the door to the ground/first floor

Relatively few videos collected by Syrian Archive document the ground/first floor of the building. This floor is where witnesses who spoke with local news sources reportedly, lived. The only damage shown in the videos of the ground/first floor, posted by Baladi News and Salam News, is to the ground floor’s front door, which appears blown away but still attached to the building. This damage is consistent with statements from witnesses living on the ground/first floor that United States forces hit their door.

Second floor

Walkthroughs by Al Jazeera Mubasher, Syria TV, and Baladi News correspondents as well as local news sources show significant damage to the building’s second floor. The apartment that housed “Abu Ahmed,” his wife, and children, had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. The majority of the damage is to the apartment’s kitchen and bathroom. The bathroom is situated directly behind the kitchen. Both are on the southeastern side of the building’s second floor.

image102 An approximate floorplan of the second floor, drafted from detailed examination of open source video content by Nick Waters, Senior Investigator of Bellingcat. Reviewed and corroborated from Syrian Archive researcher site visit

image4 A picture of the kitchen on the second floor from Al Mohrar Media Network’s video report on the attack, looking in through the kitchen door directly across from the bathroom door

image21 A picture of the bathroom behind the kitchen on the second floor from Al Jazeera Mubasher’s video report on the attack

image53 Satellite imagery of the building, the red box indicates the general location of the kitchen and bathroom on the second floor

As described earlier in this report, pictures uploaded online as well as those taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site show the destroyed door from the kitchen to the balcony and the door to the bathroom directly behind the kitchen. This damage as well as a potential muntion impact point on the bottom left corner of the bathroom door frame suggest a munition may have been fired from the south into the apartment through the balcony door. This is consistent with one of the earlier-mentioned impact points on the southern side of the building.

image120 Floorplan of the second floor showing the approximate positions of fragmentation marks and assessed impact marks of the three projectiles, as well as the approximate locations of blood (red shapes) and assessed potential path of the third projectile through the kitchen (blue arrow) Photos posted online, corroborated by photos and videos captured by a Syrian Archive researcher on the ground, show large pools of blood in the north eastern corner of the bathroom and in the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom

image31 A picture from Shaam News showing the destroyed balcony door in the kitchen

A video filmed by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site showing the destroyed door to the bathroom

image104 A picture taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site showing the possible impact point of a munition near the door frame to the bathroom

image105 A satellite image from Google Earth Pro annotated with a red arrow indicating the direction of the munition that potentially hit the balcony and bathroom doors on the building’s second floor

Videos uploaded online show what appear to be fragmentation marks on the exterior walls of the apartment’s kitchen and in the bathroom directly behind the kitchen. The kitchen’s window, also on the southeastern side of the building, was damaged in the incident. These fragmentation marks as well as bloodstains in the apartment do not appear consistent with the United States government’s claim of a firefight with residents of the second floor.

Pictures from Al Jazeera Mubasher and Al Mohrar Media Network of the damage to the kitchen’s window

image8 Apparent fragmentation marks on the exterior wall of the kitchen, shown in an Al Jazeera Mubasher report

image7 Apparent fragmentation marks on the northern wall of the bathroom, shown in an Al Jazeera Mubasher report

A closer image of the apparent fragmentation marks on the northern wall of the bathroom shown in photos taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site

Bloodstains and other, similar markings on the second floor, shown in Al Jazeera’s walkthrough of the house, photos uploaded by Twitter user Ghaith Alsayed, and photos and videos taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site, are identifiable in the kitchen, in the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom, and in the bathroom.

image16 A picture uploaded by Twitter user Ghaith Alsayed of the blood between the kitchen and bathroom on the second floor

Pictures of what appear to be blood on the wall, floor, and ceiling of the kitchen, taken by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site

Pictures of what appear to be bloodstains on the inside (left) and outside (right) of the second floor bathroom, photographed by a Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site

There are several additional fragmentation marks in the reception room and small bedroom of the second floor, similar to the smaller outer ring of fragmentation marks visible in the two impact sites on the second floor bedroom balcony. This damage may have been caused by a third projectile impacting the lower left corner of the bathroom doorway and sending shrapnel into the rest of the apartment.

Fragmentation marks below the window in the second, smaller bedroom (left) and a fragmentation mark above the doorway into the same bedroom on the second floor (right), picture taken by Syrian Archive researcher at the attack site

Videos and pictures uploaded online also show the damage to the other parts of the apartment including a damaged furnace heater, destroyed doors, and the strewn belongings of the apartment’s residents, including blankets, mattresses, clothes, and children’s toys.

image38 The entrance to the apartment on the building’s second floor, shown in an Al Mohrar Media Network report

image17 The living room of the second floor apartment after the attack, shown in an Al Mohrar Media Network report

A confidential source on the ground provided Syrian Archive with photos the group claims show victims killed on the second and third floor immediately following the incident. The photos of the second floor show a man in the hallway between the bathroom and kitchen doors, an adult woman on the bathroom floor with her head in the back right corner, and a young boy lying on the woman’s chest. These three bodies are not shown in videos and pictures taken by local journalists shortly after the incident occurred. However, the location of the bodies and debris in the photos are consistent with the large blood stains and debris shown in online videos and pictures showing the incident site. Although the blood stains are visible in all imagery showing the relevant areas inside the building, some of the debris shown in footage of the incident site, including the photos provided by the confidential source, were likely cleaned and removed in the days after the incident and are therefore not shown in later online videos and pictures of the site. Nevertheless, the large blood stains in the hallway and bathroom floors match the positions of the bodies shown in the photos provided by a confidential source.

Based on information above, specifically photos given to Syrian Archive by a confidential source and in absence of that notable large blood pools in the bathroom and hallway of the second floor apartment, at least one, likely two individuals, a woman and child were sheltering when killed on the second floor. Per US government statements, this was the wife and child of Al Qurashi’s lieutenant Syrian Archive was unable to independently verify the identities of those killed on the second floor.

Third floor

The third floor, home to Al Qurashi and his family, suffered the most damage. This appears to have been from a fire in the kitchen and the reported explosion, which collapsed a portion of the apartment. The third floor apartment shares a similar floor plan to the second floor apartment, with a kitchen in the southeast portion of the apartment and a bathroom directly behind the kitchen. Following the incident, the entrance to the apartment no longer had a wall or door. The kitchen and bathroom were the only rooms standing following the attack. The apartment’s kitchen, immediately to the right of the entrance, appears to have burned. Kitchen supplies as well as the windows to the kitchen appear destroyed. Directly across from the kitchen, similar to the second floor apartment, is the bathroom, which was also damaged.

Pictures from a video report by Al Mohrar Media Network showing the third floor apartment’s entrance, kitchen, and bathroom

The rest of the apartment collapsed. Rubble and the belongings of the apartment’s residents including blankets and clothes are strewn about the building’s top floor and on the ground outside the building.

image20 A satellite image captured on 11 November 2019 of the building with a red box indicating the portion of the third floor apartment that collapsed

image54 Drone footage posted by Syria One Agency showing the collapsed portion of the third floor

A video report on the attack by Al Mohrar Media shows the underside of the collapsed portion of the apartment. Blood appears to stain the ceiling of the collapsed portion and blankets and clothes on the ground. A graphic video posted by the Syrian Civil Defence shows volunteers under the collapsed portion of the third floor apartment collecting what appear to be pieces of human remains. This is consistent with reports that the residents of the third floor were killed there.

image5 A picture showing under the collapsed portion of the third floor apartment from a video report by Al Mohrar Media Network

Munitions on the third floor, reported explosion origin point

A video posted by RT on the RT’s Telegram channel shows objects located in the building area that appear to have physical characteristics consistent with an improvised explosive device (IED): red wiring with wrapped explosives. Syrian Archive was unable to confirm if the clip was filmed at the explosion site. Twitter users point to a picture from Shaam News showing red wiring on the collapsed roof of the building. However, a Syria TV livestream posted on Facebook as well as multiple other videos taken from inside the building show red wiring connected to what appears to be the home’s electrical breaker, suggesting the red wiring may be part of the basic electrical infrastructure used throughout the house.

image57 A picture from Shaam News with red boxes around the red wiring amongst the rubble on the building’s third floor

image28 A still from a Syria TV livestream of the second floor of the building showing red wiring in the building

Casualties

In its press briefing, the United States government said Al Qurashi and his three family members living on the third floor were killed when he detonated an explosive. According to the same briefing, four children from the second floor were evacuated, and Al Qurashi’s lieutenant, his wife, and at least one child were killed after a firefight on the second floor. The United States reported no casualties among residents living on the ground floor. However, the United States government’s accounting of casualties is inconsistent with other reporting.

In a press statement the day after the incident, the Syrian Civil Defence reported recovering “the bodies of at least 13 persons, including 6 children and 4 women, who were killed in the clashes and bombing that followed the airborne operation.” According to the Syrian Civil Defence, volunteers transported to the hospital an injured child whose family was killed in the attack and another person “who was injured in the clashes when he approached the scene to witness what was happening.” A video circulated online shows a Civil Defence volunteer carrying a small girl reportedly injured in the attack into an ambulance.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported the “deaths of six children and three women in this operation.” The statement from the organisation includes a picture of Civil Defence volunteers removing a body from inside the house.

Islamic State leadership confirmed Al Qurashi was killed in a raid led by United States forces.

Videos and pictures uploaded online show the bodies of men and children killed in the operation. An extremely graphic video uploaded to the “مزمجر الثورة السورية” Telegram channel shows Al Qurashi’s body, confirmed using photos of Al Qurashi shared with news sources online, as well as the bodies of two children outside the building. Additionally, blurred pictures shared online show the body of a man, a baby, and children killed in the attack.

A video of the attack site posted by Shaam News Network shows Syrian Civil Defence efforts to recover the bodies of those killed on the building’s third floor. A man is shown in the video carrying the body of a child, reportedly killed in the attack. Other videos also show the efforts by the Syrian Civil Defence to recover the bodies of those killed on the building’s third floor. In all, it is possible to identify five individual fatalities and one injured person in the online footage collected and examined by Syrian Archive. Four fatalities and one injured person appear to be children.

As previously described, pictures given to Syrian Archive show the bodies of a man, woman, and child located inside the second floor apartment, in what is claimed to be the places they died. The woman and child are shown in the corner of the bathroom, with the child held in the woman’s arms. The man’s body is shown in between the kitchen and bathroom where a large pool of blood can be seen in a picture uploaded by Twitter user Ghaith Alsayed. The location of these bodies suggests the man, woman, and child were likely killed by the munition fired into the second floor apartment, leaving an impact point on the bathroom door frame. The locations of these bodies and blood pools suggests that the woman and child were sheltering in the bathroom at the time of their deaths.

In all, it is possible to independently identify nine individual fatalities and one injured person in the online footage verified by Syrian Archive as linked to the attack and given to Syrian Archive at the attack site. Five of these fatalities and one injured person appear to be children.

Munitions used

Pictures and videos uploaded online show munitions apparently used in the attack and left by United States forces as well as a destroyed helicopter, found 5.4 km away from the incident site. The overwhelming majority of sources collected by Syrian Archive allege that helicopters were used in the raid.

Munitions reportedly found near the building

Multiple online sources documenting the attack uploaded pictures and footage reportedly showing munition remnants from the raid. However, because of the lack of unique identifiers, Syrian Archive is unable to verify that the pictures and videos were taken at the attack site.

The pictures and videos show remnants of an Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defence “Skinpack” Detonator Assembly. Based in the United States, the company has a webpage describing this munition, including a video depiction of how it might be used to break doors and enter buildings.

image36 A picture of an Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense “Skinpack” Detonator Assembly remnant from a video report on the attack by Baladna News

image29 A picture of an Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense “Skinpack” Detonator Assembly from Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense’s website

Pictures and videos uploaded online also show a flashbang reportedly used in the attack. Again, because of the lack of unique identifiers, Syrian Archive was unable to verify that these photos and videos of the flashbang remnant were filmed at the attack site. In a report sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and written by the Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, flashbangs are diversionary devices or grenades used to “to distract and/or incapacitate adversaries” often used in scenarios “scenarios ranging from hostage rescue to covert” operations.

image55 A picture of a flashbang reportedly used in the raid posted in the “ شبكة أخبار الشمال المحرر” Telegram channel

Helicopter found 5.4 km from incident site

Pictures from Zaitun News Agency of remnants of a destroyed helicopter

Pictures and videos online show the remnants of a destroyed helicopter around 5.4 km north of the building that was the centre of the raid.

image3 Satellite imagery from Maxar taken on 7 February 2022 shows the remnants of the destroyed helicopter

image33 A geolocation of pictures showing the location where a helicopter belonging to the United States forces reportedly landed and then was destroyed

According to United States government officials, the helicopter suffered a “mechanical failure,” forcing it to land and be “destroyed in place.” A United States official said the helicopter was on the ground when destroyed by United States forces with a large explosive. There are no claims in the media collected by Syrian Archive that anyone was in the helicopter at the time of the attack or that a group other than United States forces destroyed the helicopter.

Sources online identified the helicopter as a Black Hawk helicopter. Remnants found at the attack site, including the nose of the helicopter appear to match photos online of a Black Hawk Helicopter.

image9 A comparison of a picture of the helicopter remnants found north of the incident site (centre), a picture of a Black Hawk helicopter from Lockheed Martin’s website (top), and a stock image of a “Special Forces MH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter” (bottom)

Additionally, identification numbers written on the helicopter’s parts, specifically the helicopter’s tail rotor blade, reveal that parts were made by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the producer of the Black Hawk helicopter and a subsidiary of the American weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

image47 Video shows the identification information on parts of the helicopter found destroyed on the ground

image15 The parts number appears on several United States-based military aviation parts supplier sites that show the rotor was made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary

Conclusion

By the above analysis, Syrian Archive concludes that on 3 February 2022 United States forces conducted a raid on a three storey building – home to Islamic State leader Al Qurashi – in the town of Atmeh, Idlib in the early hours after midnight, likely between 00:00-03:00.

Comparing open source information against official United States reporting, two clear points of contention emerge in the public understanding of what happened during the operation:

  1. The official report of civilian deaths resulting from the operation is inconsistent with other reports, including the number of fatalities depicted in verifiable aftermath footage captured from the ground. (Notably, inconsistencies between civilian casualties documented on the ground and those reported by the United States have been elsewhere observed and acknowledged by the United States military.)

  2. The United States also reported the death of a child in the raid as a result of “hostile engagement” with a man and woman on the second floor. However, available information indicates the possibilities that all but one of the second floor inhabitants were sheltering when killed and that a small number of relatively higher impact munitions fired into the apartment caused the resulting damage and fatalities.

Five child fatalities can be visually identified among available, open source documentation. Official reporting on the operation is plainly flawed. Further, expert scrutiny into key details of this operation and better public transparency on the part of the United States are needed.

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