Newsweek reported last night that there were U.S. military helicopters over the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province. A Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter told the news outlet that Baghdadi was the target of the raid.
Members of the Joint Special Operations Command’s Delta Team carried out Saturday’s operation after receiving actionable intelligence, according to Newsweek. The location that was raided had been under surveillance for some time.
During a press conference to announce the news, President Trump revealed that Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself as U.S. forces closed in after a “dangerous and daring” raid.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Trump announced. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
“Capturing or killing him has been the top national security priority of my administration,” he said.
Trump said al-Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” in a dead-end tunnel. “He was a sick and depraved man,” the president continued, “and now he’s gone.”
According to CNN, The man killed has not been 100% verified as Baghdadi but officials have “high confidence” that pending DNA and biometric testing will confirm his identity. President Trump announced at his press conference that “test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification” that the group’s leader had been killed.
A nighttime video captured by Syrian activists and posted on social media shows what appears to be an air raid with helicopters & warplanes engaging various targets. It has not been confirmed if the video below shows the actual raid.
There are other videos circulating on social media that purportedly show the aftermath of the attack though many of them are fake. New York Times Journalist Christiaan Triebert analyzed the below video and believes it may be the actual site.
Here’s another video of the supposed rubble following the raid:
According to Newsweek, no children were harmed in the raid but two of Baghdadi’s wives committed suicide by detonating their own explosive vests.
The Raid Takes the House By Surprise
Democratic member of the House Intel Committee Eric Swalwell told Chris Wallace during an interview on Sunday that members of the house intelligence committee weren’t told about the raid.
“It is unfortunate that the speaker of the house and the gang of eight on the democratic side were not notified.” The “gang of eight” is comprised of Senate and House leaders from both parties and the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
“Before the Osama bin Laden raid the gang of eight was read in by President Obama and I hope that doesn’t go to other issues where were not being informed and able to play our oversight authority,” Swalwell added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. said in a statement that Americans saluted “the heroism, dedication and skill of our military and our intelligence professionals and acknowledge the work of our partners in the region.”
“The death of al-Baghdadi is significant, but the death of this ISIS leader does not mean the death of ISIS,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Scores of ISIS fighters remain under uncertain conditions in Syrian prisons, and countless others in the region and around the world remain intent on spreading their influence and committing acts of terror.”
Pelosi also pointed out that the Trump administration told Russia about the raid but not democrats, “The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration’s overall strategy in the region,” Pelosi said. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
President Trump claims he kept Democrats in the dark because he was worried about ‘leaks’. “We notified some, others are being notified now as I speak,” Trump said. “We were going to notify them last night but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There is no country in the world that leaks like we do. Washington is a leaking machine.”
President Trump added that the only people in congress he told about the raid were North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He also said they notified Russia that they would be conducting the raid.
“We spoke to the Russians. We told them we are coming in. They said, ‘Thank you for telling us,'” Trump said. “We told them we thought they would be happy. They hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. They did not know the mission but they knew we were going over an area where they had a lot of firepower.”
Chris Wallace asked Vice President Mike Pence why democrats in the gang of eight weren’t informed. Pence didn’t answer directly but said that “From the time we got actionable intelligence, the president’s focus was on a successful mission and the safety of American troops,” adding that the administration “maintained the tightest possible security here.”