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U.S. Special Operations forces eliminated ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a nighttime raid into northwestern Syria on October 26, President Donald Trump officially announced. According to the President, Baghdadi died with his 3 young children after activating his suicide vest. Baghdadi’s body was mutilated by the blast. However, Trump said, “test results gave certain and positive identification.”
A large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed and 11 young children were moved out of the operation site, the President added. He also thanked Russia, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, including Kurds, for “support”. He praised the “great cooperation” with Russia, which allegedly opened up airspace under its control to allow US aircraft to use the area.
Earlier, reports appeared that eight military helicopters carried out an operation, including delivering strikes, near the village of Barisha in the Syrian province of Idlib, near the Turkish border. At least 7 people, including 3 children, were killed, according to local sources.
Iraqi sources claimed that a group of senior ISIS and al-Qaeda commanders was killed along the ISIS leader. These were Baghdadi’s deputy – Abu Said al-Iraqi, his bodyguard – Ghazwan al-Rawi, the head of ISIS security in Syria – Abu al-Yaman, and Abu Mohamad al-Halabi, a prominent commander of the Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group, Horas al-Din. The family of Abu Mohamad al-Halabi was also allegedly killed.
The Russian Defense Ministry commented on Trump’s statement by saying that it has no verifiable information confirming the ‘yet another’ elimination of al-Baghdadi. A defense ministry spokesman Maj.Gen. Igor Konashenkov added that Russia also has no info about the supposed opening of airspace for US aircraft.
The Trump administration needed an operation to eliminate al-Baghdadi to once again take credit for ‘eliminating ISIS’ and get a PR success for Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ claims and the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. With these developments, Trump will be able to explain his administration’s Middle East strategy to the internal audience ahead of the upcoming presidential election in 2020.
Another important factor is that the US action once again revealed the double-faced policy of Western states and mainstream media that have been promoting northwestern Syria, including the province of Idlib, as a stronghold of the ‘democratic opposition’ to the ‘bloody regime’ of Bashar al-Assad. In fact, this ‘democratic opposition’ does not exist and the Greater Idlib area is almost fully controlled by various radicals and terrorists. So, the ISIS Leader and his inner circle were free to hide there, near the Turkish border.