Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly killed in US forces raid – The Telegraph,

Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly killed in US forces raid – The Telegraph,

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is reported to have died following a US military raid in north-west Syria.

Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai, is thought to have killed himself with a suicide vest as US special operations forces descended, according to media citing multiple government sources.

He was with two wives, who are also reported to have been killed by the blast, and children which are believed to still be alive.

The raid, which began after midnight, targeted a compound Baghdadi and his family were thought to have been staying in Barisha village in Idlib province near the Turkish border.

In a video which is thought to have captured the raid helicopters and heavy clashes can be heard.

Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu said eight US helicopters and two drones participated in the operation and that it lasted 90 minutes.

A senior Iraqi official told the Telegraph they obtained information on Baghdadi’s whereabouts from members of his inner circle, arrested in Iraq back in September.

“We arrested one of Baghdadi’s wives, his nephew and the wife of one of Baghdadi’s courier’s,” the official said. In interviews, the latter gave up information on the leader’s whereabouts and the coordinates in Idlib. “He wasn’t very mobile” he said, suggesting he had had in the province for at least the last two months.

He confirmed the Iraqi National Intelligence Service shared the information with the US shortly after.

Intelligence was reportedly recovered by US special forces soldiers before the compound was then hit by an air strike to prevent the building from becoming a shrine to the terror leader.

President Donald Trump gave an indication that something was afoot earlier on Saturday night when he tweeted without explanation: “Something very big has just happened!”

The White House announced Mr Trump would make a “major statement” on Sunday at 1pm GMT, without elaborating.

A Pentagon official said he was “dead” pending verification. It is understood that the US was currently carrying out biometric work to formally identify the dead.

There were no immediate statements made on Isil’s official media channels, though typically it does not rush to confirm or deny such high-profile deaths in the group.

Experts had speculated that Baghdadi was hiding out with a small number of cadres either in Anbar province in western Iraq or in the vast Badia desert in Homs in central Syria.

His presence in Idlib, the last-remaining anti-Assad opposition stronghold, will come as a surprise to some as the province is under the control of rebel groups hostile to Isil.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist group aligned with al-Qaeda which is in control of much of the province, regularly carry out raids against Isil and arrests suspected sleeper cells. *****

It is unclear if he was getting protection from the rebels, but a commander with local militia Hurras al-Din group was killed in the raid.

“If Baghdadi was indeed in Barisha, it will be interesting to understand how he managed to even get there (through Syria or through Turkey?), And how it was possible for him to stay there,” tweeted Michael Horowitz, a Middle East security analyst with the Le Beck consultancy.

Baghdadi, 48, appeared in a video released in April this year by Isil after the group’s territorial defeat, urging supporters to stay strong. *****

In September the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of Isil affiliates in other regions.

Baghdadi was the most wanted man in the world and subject to a $ 25 million US State Department reward for information on his whereabouts.

He remained on the run for more than five years even as the US-led coalition slowly destroyed Isil and focused on tracking down the leadership.

Baghdadi led al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, taking credit for suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Shia Muslims and moderate Sunnis that left thousands dead over – ****************

He then broke with al-Qaeda and announced his own, more aggressive jihadist group named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that aimed to establish its own deeply conservative Islamic nation , or Caliphate, on territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border.

Under his watch, Isil became one of the brutal terrorist outfits in modern history.

Fighters came from all over the world to live in the so-called caliphate and inflicted misery on millions of people.

They are responsible for the mass rape and enslavement of the Yazidi people, of the beheading of British, American and Japanese hostages, and of numerous other war crimes.

The removal of Baghdadi from the battlefield will be largely symbolic.

The leader’s tight security has meant he has been largely unable to communicate with his followers, apart from brief and sporadic audio recordings released on official channels.

It will, however, be a major boon for Mr Trump who has faced criticism in recent weeks for his decision to withdraw troops from Syria which paved the way for a Turkish offensive on its Kurdish partners who helped defeat Isil.

The terror group has exploited the chaos that followed the retreat, with more than 100 fighters breaking free from prisons in north-east Syria and hundreds of women escaping a detention camp.

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