ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi believed dead in US military assault: US official

PTI, Oct 27, 2019, 11:09 AM IST

Washington: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive chief of the Islamic State, has been killed in a raid conducted by the US special forces in northwest Syria on Saturday, US media reports said on Sunday.

Citing a senior US defence official and a source with knowledge, CNN reported that Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during the raid.

“The CIA assisted in locating him,” the official was quoted as saying.

The final confirmation is pending while DNA and biometric testing is conducted.

Meanwhile, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that President Donald Trump will make a “major announcement” on Sunday morning.

Quoting an administration official, CNN said that the announcement is foreign policy related.

“Something very big has just happened!” Trump earlier tweeted, without elaborating.

Newsweek first reported that the world’s most wanted man was believed to have been killed. President Trump approved the mission nearly a week before it took place, it said.

Citing a senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter, it said that Baghdadi was the target of the top-secret operation in the last bastion of Syria’s Islamist-dominated opposition.

The Pentagon official said there was a brief exchange of fire when US forces entered the compound in Idlib’s Barisha village and that Baghdadi then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest.

The official said that the compound in which Baghdadi was located was then taken out with an airstrike.

Quoting Pentagon sources, Newsweek said two wives of Baghdadi were killed after detonating their own explosive vests.

The Joint Special Operations Command’s Delta Team carried out the operation after receiving actionable intelligence, it said, citing sources familiar with the operation. The location had been under surveillance for some time.

Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph, has made only one public appearance, in July 2014, in the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, announcing the birth of Islamic State’s much-feared “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria. The mosque was retaken by Iraqi security forces in June 2017.

In April this year, he appeared for the first time in five years in a propaganda video released by the jihadist organisation. In the video, he referred to the battle of Baghouz, which ended in March.

An Iraqi national, Baghdadi was an ultraconservative Islamist who fought against US forces following the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. Baghdadi was later arrested and US forces kept him in the detention centers of Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, where a number of Islamist militants were lodged.

Baghdadi joined Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which merged with other Islamist groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq. He became the group’s leader in 2010 after his predecessor was killed by US forces. He renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, widely known as ISIL or ISIS in 2013 and announced his “caliphate” in 2014.

The US had announced a USD 25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

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