Head of ISIS Reportedly Killed in US Special Forces Strike inside Syria

October 27, 2019

3 min read

An anonymous senior Pentagon official reportedly told Newsweek that President Trump authorized a special forces operation carried out in the Barisha village in the Idlib province in northwest Syria targeting Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS).

“Amid reports Saturday of U.S. military helicopters over Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter told Newsweek that Baghdadi was the target of the top-secret operation in the last bastion of the country’s Islamist-dominated opposition, a faction that has clashed with ISIS in recent years,” Newsweek reported. “A U.S. Army official briefed on the results of the operation told Newsweek that Baghdadi was killed in the raid. And the Defense Department told the White House they have ‘high confidence’ that the high-value target killed was Baghdadi, but further verification is pending.”

The verification accomplished through DNA and biometric testing was confirmed on Sunday. One official reported that Baghdadi was wearing an explosive vest and committed suicide during the raid. He was reported to be with two wives, who were also reported to have been killed by the blast, and children who are believed to still be alive. 

Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu said eight US helicopters,  50-70 US Army Rangers, & Delta Forces, and two drones participated in the operation and that it lasted 90 minutes. Two of the helicopters reportedly landed during the strike. The compound he was living in was targeted afterward by an airstrike to prevent it from being turned into a shrine to the head-terrorist. 

With uncharacteristic understatement, President Trump hinted at the targeted killing.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to make a major announcement Sunday at 9 AM.

If the reports prove to be true, the termination of Baghdadi marks a serious blow to ISIS. Al Jazeera‘s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Baghdad, said:

“Analysts say the death will have a significant impact on the group. It will possibly weaken the group and, at least for a short period of time, until another leader is announced, they might be disorientated.”

Al-Baghdadi is notoriously elusive and his last public appearance was in 2016 when he gave a sermon in Mosul. Other than a video of that sermon, there exist only two authenticated photos of him. It is also reported that he wears a mask when he meets with his own commanders, earning the moniker, “the invisible sheik”.

Baghdadi was reported dead or wounded on multiple occasions. He was reported to be seriously wounded in a coalition airstrike in March 2015. He was reported wounded in several subsequent airstrikes. He was reported killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2016 but the reports were later rejected. Various media outlets claimed that al-Baghdadi and three senior ISIS leaders survived an attempted poisoning by an assassin in October 2016.  In June 2017, Syrian state TV claimed al-Baghdadi had been killed in the artillery strike that was backed by the U.S. and a similar report came out one week later claiming he was killed in a Russian airstrike with Russian officials claiming his death was “100 percent certain.” Other reports followed but he appeared in an 18-minute long video released by an Islamic State media group in April 2019. 

Born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is believed to have been born near Samarra, Iraq. Al-Baghdadi was arrested by US Forces-Iraq on 2 or 4 February 2004 near Fallujah but released in December as a prisoner deemed “low level.”Al-Baghdadi was announced as leader of ISIS in May 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdad.In 2014, al-Baghdadi declared himself caliph, the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler, regarded as the successor of the Prophet Mohammad

In October 2011, the US officially designated Baghdadi as “terrorist” and offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or death, increasing the amount to $25 million five years later.

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