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How the US Found Baghdadi

Seems one of his wives and a courier told all
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2019 4:22 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump grabbed the world's attention Sunday with major news: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was dead. Now details are emerging about the US military raid against the Islamic State leader. Turns out one of Baghdadi's wives and a courier were arrested this summer and revealed his location in a part of Syria where rival al-Qaeda groups hold sway, US officials tell the New York Times. An elite Army unit devised and rehearsed the raid, which involved eight American helicopters flying from Iraq to an area north of Idlib city in western Syria, drawing gunfire on the 70-minute trip. Commandos then blew out a wall of Baghdadi's compound and killed several people in a gun battle. For more:

  • 'Whimpering and crying': Trump said Baghdadi killed himself and three children using a suicide vest, "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way." All true? "Well I don't—I don't have those details," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on This Week, per ABC News. "The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground but, clearly, the guy was a coward and a murderer."

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  • Russia first: Nancy Pelosi praised military and officials behind the raid, per USA Today, but said "the House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top congressional leadership were notified of in advance." Trump said he didn't tell Pelosi because "I wanted to make sure this kept secret."
  • The Kurds: The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces called the raid a "joint operation" between Americans and Kurds, per the Washington Post. Kurds provided more intel than anyone, a US official tells the Times, even after Trump ordered US troops to leave Syria and let the Kurds battle Turkish forces alone.
  • Witnesses: A family in Syria apparently witnessed the night raid. "They said foreign soldiers with machine guns stormed in and took [people] away," a Syrian journalist tells the Independent. "People they had never seen before. ... When they left, after taking prisoners and killing the rest, a plane came and struck the house to completely destroy it."
  • Trump's team: The White House has released images of Trump and his national-security team stoically watching the raid, per USA Today. One Twitter user contrasted it with President Obama's staff observing the Osama bin Laden raid.
  • Who was Baghdadi? A jihadist whose Islamic State captured Iraqi and Syrian territory, establishing a "caliphate" that was lost in 2019 fighting against US-led forces. Baghdadi also inspired terror attacks worldwide, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Not over: More attacks on terrorists in Syria may follow, a US defense official tells CNN. Indeed, Newsweek reports that US strikes killed Islamic State spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in Aleppo province on Sunday.
(Read more Islamic State stories.)

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