U.S. Special Operations forces carried out a “successful” counter-terrorism mission in northwest Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said in a statement obtained by Fox News.
John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said there were no U.S. casualties and more information will be provided later.
Human rights groups and witnesses described a large operation by U.S. commandos that seemed to have the intensity and planning of a raid on a high-value target. Social media users posted a purported video of the attack in the nighttime hours. The helicopter was only visible when it opened fire.
Residents in Atmeh, a village in rebel-held Idlib Province, told the Associated Press that there was a large ground assault, with U.S. forces using loudspeakers asking women and children to leave the area. They described the raid as the biggest operation since the October 2019 killing of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The area, which is near the Turkish border, is home to several top al Qaeda operatives and other militant groups still fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News.
There was at least one major explosion. A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the AP that one of the helicopters in the raid suffered a mechanical problem and had to be blown up on the ground.
The New York Times reported that the “White House was abuzz on Wednesday night about something secretive afoot, and Pentagon officials were unusually tight-lipped about the mission’s details.”
Residents and activists told the AP that there were multiple deaths near the home that was raided in Atmeh, which included civilians. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine people were killed, including two children. The White Helmets, a civil defense group in the country, tweeted that 13 people, including six children and four women were killed.
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A U.S. official told the Times that an explosion inside the targeted home was not caused by the commandos and likely the target of the raid blowing himself up. Reuters said it viewed a video taken by a resident that showed the bodies of two “apparently lifeless children and a man in the rubble of a building at the location.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report