The commanding general of U.S. Central Command called the Oct. 26 mission that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a “difficult, complex and precise raid.”
Speaking at the Pentagon, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the ISIS terrorist had long been a priority target. When the Command received intelligence that he might be in an isolated compound in northeast Syria, about four miles from the Turkish border, Gen. McKenzie gave the order to prepare an assault.
He gave President Trump the mission details the day before the attack was launched using helicopter insertion. The assault force — believed to be a combination of Delta Force commandos and Army Rangers — flew for about an hour from their staging area in Syria to the compound.
“We repeatedly urged those inside to come out peacefully,” Gen. McKenzie said. “Every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and protect the children we suspected would be at the compound.”
He said 11 children were safely evacuated from the scene of the assault. But four women and a man were killed after they refused to surrender and came at the U.S. troops.
They found al-Baghdadi after discovering a tunnel in the compound. He detonated a bomb when capture was imminent, killing himself and two children. It was initially reported that three children were killed but officials said that information was incorrect.
A DNA sample taken at the scene was compared to records from an earlier prison stay in Iraq. There was no doubt it was al-Baghdadi, who was later buried at sea, Gen. McKenzie said.
A special operations canine who took part in the raid has become something of a celebrity after President Trump tweeted out a photograph of him. Gen. McKenzie said the dog, reportedly named Conan, is a four-year veteran and has taken part in 50 combat missions.
The dog was injured after coming in contact with an exposed electrical cable in the tunnel after al-Baghdadi detonated the explosive vest.
“He has been returned to duty,” Gen. McKenzie said.
The entire compound was later destroyed in an airstrike.
“It pretty much looks like a parking lot with large potholes right now,” the general said.
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