The United States on Wednesday released a video and photographs of the special forces raid on a compound in Idlib, Syria, during which Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself, AFP reported on Thursday. The Pentagon released grainy, black and white images of US troops approaching the on foot the high-walled compound, where Baghdadi was holed up.
The US Department of Defence also released a video of airstrikes on a group of unidentified terrorists on the ground who opened fire on the helicopters that ferried the US forces. The US also released “before and after” photographs of the compound.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, said the compound was destroyed following the raid. He told reporters at the Pentagon that two children were killed when they entered a hole through a tunnel along with Baghdadi. McKenzie said the children appeared to be less than 12 years old.
“About Baghdadi’s last moments, I could tell you this,” he said. “He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground.” McKenzie added that Baghdadi may have fired from the hole during his last moments. US President Donald Trump had claimed earlier this week that Baghdadi died “crying and whimpering”.
McKenzie said apart from Baghdadi and the two children, four women and a man also died at the compound. He said the women had acted in a “threatening manner” and were wearing suicide vests. Several unidentified Islamic State terrorists were also killed when they opened fire on the US special forces, the general added.
However, he refused to provide details about the two men captured during the raid. He said a “substantial” amount of electronics and documents had been recovered from the compound.
‘Islamic State will soon have a new chief’
Meanwhile, Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Russ Travers said on Wednesday that the Islamic State terrorist group will soon have a new chief, AFP reported. Travers said that the group has a number of people who could take over from Baghdadi.
“There’s no question that the losses over the weekend were significant to ISIS,” Travers told the US House Homeland Security Committee, referring to Baghdadi’s death as well to the killing of Islamic State spokesperson Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. “At the same time, it’s a deep bench.”
Trump had announced on Tuesday that Baghdadi’s likely successor, whom he did not identify, had also been killed.
Travers told the committee that the US has had “tremendous success” in eliminating the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State leadership over the years, but new leaders keep rising to the top. “My guess it that... somewhere between a couple of days and a couple of weeks, we will see a new leader of the [caliphate] announced.”
He said that Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri may pay tributes to Baghdadi, and the Islamic State may call for attacks against Western interests. “And then we will see requests for the branches and affiliates to swear allegiance to the new leader,” Travers added.
Travers said that he did not see the Islamic State group as being able to carry out any significant attacks in the West in the immediate future, but planning for major attacks will continue.
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