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Pentagon releases new details on al-Baghdadi raid

The Pentagon on Wednesday released new images and videos of the weekend raid that killed the ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, adding to the picture of the terrorist leader’s final moments.


Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said the mission, which he ordered to commence from Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., began around 9 a.m. EST on Saturday.

Offering new details of the raid, McKenzie spoke as reporters at the Pentagon were shown footage of the special operations team assaulting al-Baghdadi’s compound and the strikes on the facility afterward.

A video shows the assault force’s arrival at the compound — described as an area not traditionally operated in by U.S. forces and roughly an hour flight from the U.S. staging base in Syria.

Fighters from two locations can be seen gathering to fire on U.S. aircraft. Though the individuals were not assessed to be affiliated with al-Baghdadi, “they demonstrated a hostile intent against U.S. forces and were killed by two airstrikes from supporting helicopters,” McKenzie said as the strike was shown.

The assault force can then be seen closing in on the compound, where they first removed the nonhostile inhabitants that surrendered, which included 11 children.

“Despite the violent nature of the raid and the high-profile nature of this assault, every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and to protect the children that we suspected would be at the compound,” McKenzie said.

Five ISIS members inside, four women and one man, "presented a threat to the force," McKenzie said. "They did not respond to commands in Arabic to surrender ... and were then engaged by the raid force and killed."

U.S. forces then discovered al-Baghdadi hiding in a tunnel, where he detonated a suicide vest as troops closed in, killing himself and two children, not three children as was originally assessed.

McKenzie said it’s believed that al-Baghdadi fired from the tunnel in his final moments and that the two children he was with were under 12 years old.

In total, six ISIS members died during the raid: al-Baghdadi, one other man and four women.

Al-Baghdadi’s remains were buried at sea after he was identified through DNA testing.

Afterward, U.S. forces fired precision standoff munitions from aircraft to destroy the compound, footage that was also shown to reporters.

“It looks pretty much like a parking lot with large potholes right now,” McKenzie said.

Showing side-by-side pictures of the compound before and after the raid, McKenzie added that forces made sure the area would “not be a shrine or otherwise memorable in any way. It’s just another piece of ground.”

In addition, he provided some background of the now-famous dog that chased al-Baghdadi into the tunnel and was injured in the suicide vest explosion.

“This dog is a four-year veteran of [the Special Operations Command] canine program and has been a member of approximately 50 combat missions,” McKenzie said.

The dog was injured by exposed live electrical cables in the tunnel after al-Baghdadi detonated his vest but has since been returned to duty.

McKenzie, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley “extensively briefed the president on all aspects of the plan and the risks involved in its execution” on Friday, McKenzie said.

Asked about President Trump’s comments on al-Baghdadi’s final moments — Trump described him as "whimpering and crying" and in "panic" as U.S. forces closed in on him — McKenzie said that he could not say where the president had heard such details.

"I can tell you this: He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground. You can deduce what kind of person it is based on that activity," McKenzie said. "I’m not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds. I just can’t confirm that one way or another."

Milley told reporters on Monday that he assumed Trump had heard details of al-Baghdadi's last moments during the raid.

“I know the president had planned to talk down to the unit and unit members,” Milley said. “But I don’t know what the source of that was. I assume it was talking directly to unit and unit members.”

McKenzie also warned that though al-Baghdadi’s death is a blow to ISIS, “you’re never going to be able to stamp it out.”

“ISIS is first and last an ideology, so we’re under no illusions that it’s going to go away just because we kill Baghdadi. It will remain,” he said.

"I suspect at the highest levels it’ll be a little disrupted. It will take them some time to reestablish someone to lead the organization, and during that period of time their actions may be a little bit disjointed. They will be dangerous," McKenzie said.

He added that national security officials suspect ISIS will try some form of retribution attack and that "we are postured and prepared for that."

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