ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself in an overnight U.S. military raid in Barisha, a town near the Turkish border in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib.
Syrian Democratic Forces General Commander Mazloum Abdi tweeted, “Successful & historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America.”
“For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi,” Abdi added. “Thanks to everybody who participate in this great mission.”
According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the CIA and officials in the Kurdish autonomous region had intelligence that Abu Yaman, head of ISIS security who was alongside al-Baghdadi in the ISIS leader’s latest video, was in the area. The targeted house was purchased a few days ago by a jihadist who told neighbors he was from Aleppo, the group said.
The Idlib area is controlled by al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which includes Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was formerly known as the al-Nusra Front.
The Syrian Observatory, which closely monitors all military operations there, said the Special Ops force consisted of eight helicopters escorted by a jet and the operation lasted for about two hours. They reported that nine people were killed, including two women (reportedly wives of al-Baghdadi, who were also wearing suicide vests that did not detonate) and a child, but said that was likely not a final casualty count.
Al-Baghdadi’s deputy Abu Said al-Iraqi and security expert Abu Mohamed al-Halabi were also reportedly among the dead.
Al-Baghdadi, who had a $25 million bounty on his head from the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, was last heard from publicly in a September audio message urging ISIS members to free detainees in SDF custody. He last spoke in public in 2014, when he declared the formation of the caliphate in Mosul. He last released a video in April; released by ISIS’ al-Furqan Media, the video showed al-Baghdadi meeting with commanders as he vowed to inflict revenge for the defeat of the caliphate’s physical territory in Iraq and Syria.
President Trump told reporters this morning that the Special Ops air mission, which included manned and unmanned aircraft, was delayed a few times before the successful mission was launched. The Syrian Observatory reported that sources said the operation was delayed due to Turkey’s invasion of Syria.
The final confirmation of al-Baghdadi’s death is pending DNA tests but biometrics confirmed a match with the ISIS leader’s facial features.
No U.S. service members were killed in the raid.
According to the Pentagon’s inspector general, 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria. Al-Baghdadi, 48, also urged the creation of numerous ISIS “provinces” around the globe, from Africa to southeast Asia; these operate under their own leadership.
Trump said al-Baghdadi died after the “compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.” The ISIS leader fled into a tunnel “as our dogs chased him down — he ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children” accompanying him, Trump said.