The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie, offered fresh details on Wednesday about the raid that killed ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, including that the attacking commandos killed five other ISIS fighters and that the terrorist leader’s remains have been buried at sea. But he wouldn’t confirm President Donald Trump’s vivid description of the terrorist leader’s final moments.
The special operations troops who conducted the raid launched from a site inside Syria, said McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, who said he gave final approval for the mission Saturday morning after receiving authorization from Trump.
The troops who raided the site in the Syrian province of Idlib killed a man and four women inside the compound who were “behaving in a threatening manner with suicide vests,” McKenzie said, and captured two other men. Asked whether any of the fighters inside the compound had fired at the raid force, McKenzie said that “Baghdadi may have actually fired from inside his hole,” referring to the tunnel were Baghdadi killed himself with his own suicide vest.
Baghdadi retreated into the tunnel with two children, not three as Trump originally described on Sunday, according to McKenzie. “We originally thought there were three,” he said, but have revised the count to two based on the reports of the special operations troops.
The general said he could not confirm Trump’s description of Baghdadi “screaming, crying and whimpering” in the minutes before he detonated his vest. “He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up,” McKenzie said when asked about Trump’s characterization. “I’m not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds. I’m just not able to confirm that one way or another.”
McKenzie also rejected reports that the mission had to be sped up because of Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. forces from northeastern Syria earlier this month. “Absolutely not. We chose the time based on a variety of factors — weather, certainty, lunar data, a variety of things like that,” McKenzie said, adding that the withdrawal order “was not a limiting factor.”
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