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Daesh leader Baghdadi reportedly killed in Syria by US forces

Published: October 27, 2019
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Daesh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a US military operation in Syria, sources in Syria, Iraq and Iran said on Sunday, as US President Donald Trump prepared to make a “major statement” at the White House, Reuters reports.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Baghdadi was targeted in the overnight raid but was unable to say whether the operation was successful.

A commander of one of the militant factions in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib said Baghdadi was believed to have been killed in a raid after midnight on Saturday involving helicopters, warplanes and a ground clash in the village of Brisha near the Turkish border.

Two Iraqi security sources and two Iranian officials said they had received confirmation from inside Syria that Baghdadi had been killed.

“Our sources from inside Syria have confirmed to the Iraqi intelligence team tasked with pursuing Baghdadi that he has been killed alongside his personal bodyguard in Idlib after his hiding place was discovered when he tried to get his family out of Idlib towards the Turkish border,” one of the Iraqi officials said.

Iraqi State Television said it would broadcast footage from the raid, adding that Iraqi intelligence agencies had helped pinpoint Baghdadi’s location.

US magazine Newsweek, which first reported the news, said it had been told by a US Army official briefed on the raid that Baghdadi was dead. It said the operation was carried out by special operations forces after receiving actionable intelligence.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine people were killed during the two-hour raid, including two women and likely at least one child. It did not know if Baghdadi was among the dead.

One house thought to be the main target was badly hit from the air, before fighters descended from helicopters and engaged in ground clashes, said the Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria.

‘Something very big just happened!’

Trump gave an indication that something was afoot on Saturday night when he tweeted without explanation, “Something very big has just happened!”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley announced late on Saturday that Trump would make a “major statement” at 9 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) on Sunday. Gidley gave no further details.

Trump has faced withering criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike for his US troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria, which permitted Turkey to attack America’s Kurdish allies.

Many critics of Trump’s Syria pullout have expressed worries it would lead the Daesh militancy to regain strength and pose a threat to US interests. An announcement about Baghdadi’s death could help blunt those concerns.

For days, US officials had feared Daesh would seek to capitalize on the upheaval in Syria.

But they also saw a potential opportunity, in which Daesh leaders might break from more secretive routines to communicate with operatives, potentially creating a chance for the United States and its allies to detect them.

Baghdadi was long thought to be hiding somewhere along the Iraq-Syria border. He has led the group since 2010, when it was still an underground offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq.

On Sept. 16, Daesh’s media network issued a 30-minute audio message purporting to come from Baghdadi, in which he said operations were taking place daily and called on supporters to free women jailed in camps in Iraq and Syria over their alleged links to his group.

In the audio message, Baghdadi also said the United States and its proxies had been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the United States had been “dragged” into Mali and Niger.

At the height of its power Daesh ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

But the fall in 2017 of Mosul and Raqqa, its strongholds in Iraq and Syria respectively, stripped Baghdadi, an Iraqi, of the trappings of a caliph and turned him into a fugitive thought to be moving along the desert border between Iraq and Syria.

US air strikes killed most of his top lieutenants, and before Daesh published a video message of Baghdadi in April there had been conflicting reports over whether he was alive.

Despite losing its last significant territory, Daesh is believed to have sleeper cells around the world, and some fighters operate from the shadows in Syria’s desert and Iraq’s cities.

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With US-backed militants having already reached the full extent of their gains on the battlefield and now facing incremental but inevitable defeat – the US appeared to be out of time and out of options. Then suddenly – as if on cue – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – alleged leader of the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) was resurrected after US claims he had died years early, and provided the US with the perfect pretext to militarily intervene in Syria anyway.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled an attempted coup by fighters within his own group last month, senior regional intelligence officials have told the Guardian. The incident, believed to have taken place on 10 January, took place in Hajin in the eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor, where Daesh fighters have been battling with the international coalition. In the midst of the fighting, foreign militants reportedly planned to oust Al-Baghdadi, who managed to quickly escape the town with the help of his bodyguards.

Jabbar al-Maamouri, a senior leader at the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq has declared that Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Salafi militant terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) is now in the hands of the US forces. According to the source, al-Maamouri assured that the US forces will not kill the terrorist leader unless they are forced or obliged to do so. He also added that if this is the case, then it will for sure happen in a Hollywood-like manner.

Hopeful onlookers should recall how Bin Laden's death was followed by the expansion of terrorism, not its defeat. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that according to information, which is being checked through various channels, the Islamic State’s leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi had reportedly been killed as a result of airstrikes conducted by the Russian aircrafts near Raqqa on May 28. The strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking Islamic State leaders where al- Baghdadi had reportedly been present. The meeting had been gathered to plan routes for the exit of militants from Raqqa through the so-called “southern corridor.”

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