Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Conan the destroyer: the dog that took down Al Baghdadi

The 'very good boy' who helped hunt down the fugitive ISIS leader is a Belgian Malinois, and she is a girl

Conan, wounded in the US special forces raid on the Syria compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, in a declassified photograph released by the White House. Reuters
Conan, wounded in the US special forces raid on the Syria compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, in a declassified photograph released by the White House. Reuters

The "very good boy" hailed by the White House for chasing ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi into a tunnel where he detonated a suicide vest is reportedly named Conan – and she is a girl.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump tweeted a picture of the Belgian Malinois, saying that her name was yet to be declassified, but that she had done a "GREAT JOB" in helping to hunt down the world's most wanted man.

The White House added that she was "A VERY GOOD BOY!"

However, Newsweek, which broke the original story of Al Baghdadi's death before the White House announcement, revealed that the dog's name is Conan, after the comedian Conan O'Brien.

It was not clear why the female dog was given a male name.

Mr Trump described her as a "a beautiful dog, a talented dog" during a briefing, when he also confirmed Al Baghdadi's death, and said she had been injured after being exposed to live electrical cables during the weekend raid. She has now been treated and has returned to duty.

General Frank McKenzie, who leads US Central Command, told reporters the dog was injured when it came into contact with the cables as it pursued Al Baghdadi in a tunnel underneath a compound in northwestern Syria.

He revealed the dog has worked with special operations forces for four years and taken part in about 50 missions and said working dogs like this one are "critical members of our forces."

Meanwhile, MrTrump on Wednesday posted an altered image on Twitter of him presenting a medal to the dog. An all-caps tweet of "AMERICAN HERO" accompanies the photo-edited picture.

The image was derived from a photo taken at a 2017 East Room ceremony to honor retired Army medic James McCloughan with the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 10 men during the war in Vietnam.

The president's apparent reverence for the animal has been undermined by his references to Al Baghdadi, whom Mr Trump described as dying "like a dog". The US leader also referred to other ISIS militants as "frightened puppies".

Mr Trump is not known to be an animal lover.

Conan, praised by many as a hero rather than a coward, is not the first dog to play a game of "go get the violent extremist". Another Belgian Malinois, Cairo, accompanied US navy SEALs on the mission to kill Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011.

He reportedly wore special dog armour for rappelling and parachuting and sported a night-vision camera. The dog also met former US president Barack Obama after the operation.

Al Baghdadi, who had been falsely reported as dead several times before, was killed in Idlib, northern Syria, in a US raid named after Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was taken as a hostage and raped by the militant.

Ron Aiello, President of the US Was Dogs Association, told The National that Belgian Malanois adapt easily to different climates and terrains.

"The breed is chosen for its drive, strength, intelligence and loyalty, to name a few of their traits," he said.

Updated: October 31, 2019 04:10 AM

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