Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

US releases video footage of Al Baghdadi raid

The footage shows assault forces moving in on his compound and shots being fired

The US has released a video of the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in Idlib, north-western Syria, and warned the group may attempt a "retribution attack".

The video shows night vision footage from a helicopter in which shots are fired and dark figures, the assault force, approach a walled compound.

Gen Frank McKenzie of the US Central Command, who hosted a briefing where the footage was revealed, said that six ISIS members were killed in the attack – four women and two men, including Al Baghdadi. He also said that two children, believed to be under 12, lost their lives when the militant took them into a "hole" – described as a tunnel in previous announcements – and exploded his suicide vest.

Gen McKenzie said fighters who were not believed to be affiliated with Al Baghdadi were killed in air strikes after they opened fire on the helicopter, and that non-combatants were detained during the mission and later released.

US President Donald Trump had originally said during a press briefing on Sunday that at least seven were killed in addition to the ISIS leader, as well as three children.

"About Baghdadi's last moments, I can tell you this: He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up as his people stayed on the ground," said Gen McKenzie.

"So you can deduce what kind of person he is based on that activity ... I'm not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds."

He also suggested the US military had secured a large amount of intelligence about ISIS's activities during the raid.

"While the assault force was securing the remains, they also secured whatever documentation and electronics we could find, which was substantial," Mr McKenzie said, declining to provide further details.

He said Turkey's incursion into Syria this month, and the US pullback from the border, was not a factor in deciding the timing of the raid. Instead, he pointed to a host of other factors, including the amount of moonlight.

"We struck because the time is about right to do it then, given the totality of the intelligence and the other factors that would affect the raid force going into and coming out," Gen McKenzie said.

He also said that ISIS would likely try to stage some kind of retaliatory attack.

"We suspect they will try some form of retribution attack. And we are postured and prepared for that."

The US raid to find Al Baghdadi, who had been falsely reported as dead several times before, was dedicated to Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was taken as a hostage and raped by the militant.

He has now been buried at sea at an undisclosed location.

Updated: October 31, 2019 08:03 PM

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