The Pentagon has released footage showing the raid that resulted in the death of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, commander of U.S. Central Command, released the footage at a press conference on Wednesday at the Pentagon.
McKenzie was the operational commander of the Delta Force raid, which took place on Saturday in northwest Syria, and resulted in the death of Baghdadi after the terror leader detonated a suicide vest to avoid capture.
The general clarified that Baghdadi killed two of his own young children in the blast, not three as the breach force initially believed. McKenzie said both children were thought to be under the age of 12.
‘Baghdadi was the subject of an intense inter-agency effort to bring him to justice, and that effort significantly advanced recently as we closed in on his whereabouts,’ McKenzie said in a statement.
‘As it became clear that we had gained fleeting and actionable intelligence on his hideout, we developed an execution level plan designed to capture or kill him and started preparing a special operations team for the mission,’ he continued.
Assault force helicopters come under fire from ground
The first video released on Wednesday depicts the assault force helicopters coming under fire from combatants on the ground during the approach to the compound.
McKenzie said that the ground combatants were not believed to be ISIS fighters, but nevertheless presented a threat to the raid team, which responded with overwhelming firepower from the assault helicopters.
The video shows the ground combatants scattering as the return fire lights up the ground around them.
Delta Force storms Baghdadi compound
The next video shows U.S. Delta Forces on the ground, approaching Baghdadi’s compound from two directions.
The special operators used tactical munitions to blow holes in the walls of the compound and enter it along with K-9 military dog units.
McKenzie said that as non-combatants fled the compound, they were checked for explosives and weapons, detained, and then released following the raid.
‘The group was treated humanely at all times and included 11 children,’ McKenzie said.
‘Despite the violent nature of the raid and the high profile nature of this assault, every effort was made to prevent civilian casualties, and to protect the children we suspected would be at the compound,’ he continued.
Five ISIS members inside the compound attempted to fight back as the U.S. forces breached the building. All five were killed. Four were women and one was a man.
As the Delta Force operators closed in, Baghdadi retreated into a dead-end tunnel in the compound using his own children as human shields.
‘When capture at the hands of U.S. forces was imminent, Baghdadi detonated a bomb killing himself and two young children,’ the general said.
The general explained that initial reports that three children were killed were incorrect, due to a mistaken report up the chain of command.
No U.S. forces were killed, though a military dog sent into the tunnel after Baghdadi suffered injuries from an exposed electrical wire. The dog has been returned to duty.
The total death toll of the attack was eight: Baghdadi, five other ISIS members, and the two children killed by Baghdadi’s suicide bomb.
Other individuals were killed when militant groups in the area, unconnected to ISIS, became aware of the assault and began moving toward the compound with ‘hostile intent,’ McKenzie said.
McKenzie said that two men at the compound were detained and extracted by the assault force.
Though the general did not confirm it, at least one of the men removed from the compound is thought to be the ISIS mole whose inside information led U.S. forces to Baghdadi.
Total destruction of the compound
The third video depicts the drone strike that obliterated Baghdadi’s compound.
The assault force spent about two hours at the compound following the raid.
The team gathered evidence and secured Baghdadi’s remains for further DNA testing, after a field DNA test came back positive identifying him.
After the assault force cleared the compound and left with the two detainees, standoff missiles were fired at the compound, destroying the building and its contents.
‘It looks pretty much like a large parking lot with potholes right now,’ McKenzie said.
Baghdadi’s remains were buried at sea within 24 hours of the raid in accordance with the international laws of warfare, McKenzie said.
DNA from the remains was further analyzed at a Defense Intelligence Agency laboratory, and compared against a known sample taken when Baghdadi was detained at Camp Bucca in Iraq in 2004.
The analysis indicated a confirmed match, with a probability of 1 in 104 septillion that anyone else could match the known DNA profile.
‘Which is certainly, beyond a shadow of a doubt,’ McKenzie said.
At the press conference, a reporter pressed McKenzie to confirm President Donald Trump’s statement that Baghdadi was ‘whimpering and crying’ in his final moments.
‘I can tell you this,’ said McKenzie. ‘He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the grounds. You can deduce what kind of person it is based on that activity.’