Pentagon reveals details, video of fast, violent raid that killed ISIS leader Baghdadi – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon released details and graphic footage Wednesday of the secret raid that killed ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend.
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the four-star chief of Central Command who oversaw the operation, said the raid on Oct. 25 killed six ISIS fighters, including Bagdhadi.
McKenzie described a fast, lethal strike in which militants from groups not related to Baghdadi were also killed. No U.S. commandos were wounded in the raid. A military working dog sustained injuries from an electrical wire but has returned to duty.
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On Friday, McKenzie briefed President Trump on the risks involved in the raid.
The operation began about 9 a.m. ET Saturday, on McKenzie’s order from his headquarters in Tampa, he said. He remained in contact with the White House throughout the raid.
The American commandos took off from a base in Syria for the hourlong flight to Baghdadi’s isolated, walled compound about four miles from the Turkish border in Idlib province in northwest Syria, McKenzie said.
Insurgents in the area fired on the aircraft and were killed by gunfire from the helicopters. Black-and-white footage released by the Pentagon shows dark forms eliminated in a cloud of dust kicked up by the airstrike.
The Pentagon’s most advanced fighter jets and drones hovered overhead as the special operations force blew holes in the walls of the compound and encountered five ISIS members – four women and one man.
McKenzie said they displayed “hostile intent” and were wearing suicide vests. They did not respond to commands in Arabic or warning shots, he said, and were gunned down. Eleven children were rescued.
Baghdadi then crawled into a hole with two young children under the age of 12 and detonated his suicide vest, killing all of them, McKenzie said.
In announcing Baghdadi’s death Sunday morning, President Trump described him as whimpering and crying before his death, but McKenzie said he had no information about Baghdadi’s actions immediately prior to the explosion.
After gathering intelligence from the compound, U.S. troops departed with two detainees, McKenzie said. A precision airstrike reduced the structure to rubble.
“It looks pretty much like a parking lot with large potholes,” McKenzie said.
Baghdadi’s remains were buried at sea, he said.
The operation had been planned for some time and had been informed by intelligence gathered by military and intelligence agencies, as well as the Syrian Democratic Forces, key partners of the U.S.-led coalition that had rolled back virtually all of the territorial gains made by ISIS since 2014.
On Oct. 6, Trump announced that U.S. troops would withdraw from Syria, allowing Turkey to begin operations against the Kurds, whom they consider terrorists. That prompted bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill as the abandonment of a key U.S. ally.
On Wednesday, McKenzie said the withdrawal had no effect on the planning or timing of the raid, which he said was entirely chosen by U.S. commanders.
The dog, a Belgian Malinois, has captured headlines and Trump’s attention in recent days. McKenzie described the dog as a “fine canine,” a four-year member of special operations forces and veteran of 50 combat missions.
The successful mission does not end the threat from ISIS, he said.
“We don’t see a bloodless future,” McKenzie said.