Elite U.S. Army Forces Conducted High-Risk Raid on ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi

Islamic State flag

Elite U.S. Army special operators took out the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS/ISIL) head honcho, sources confirmed to Breitbart News.

The U.S. Army’s Delta Force, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment conducted the raid on the world’s most wanted jihadi, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to two U.S. officials.

The highly secretive Delta Force, known as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), is a special mission unit under Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which commands the elite of the elite special operations forces. They are also referred to as Tier One forces and are tasked with special missions, such as the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden.

Delta Force soldiers were among the first to engage ISIS after the terrorist group swept across Iraq in 2014. The first U.S. service member to be killed in the war against ISIS was Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was a member of Delta Force, on October 22, 2015.

Rangers are the Army’s premier light infantry forces, and the 160th SOAR is the Army’s elite aviation unit specializing in nighttime raids, giving them the name “Night Stalkers.”

President Donald Trump on Sunday praised the forces he authorized to conduct the raid but did not mention the units that took part in the operation.

“U.S. Special Operations Forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it,” he said during a 48-minute live press conference.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was in the Situation Room with the president as the operation unfolded, also praised the forces involved for “flawlessly” executing the operation in a statement and said earlier on ABC News’ This Week that it was “brilliantly executed.”

“Our troops are the best in the world. They know what they’re doing. They’ve done this hundreds of times and it was a brilliantly executed operation. And the president deserves credit for giving it the green light,” he said.

He also said there were less than a hundred forces on the ground but more involved in the entire operation, including from the intelligence community and other parts of the government.

He also confirmed there were a “number” of different types of aircraft, “principally the CH-47s” helicopters, which are Chinooks. The 160th SOAR operates modified Chinooks that can carry about two dozen forces each. Those Chinooks are painted black and have inflight refueling capability. The regiment also operates Black Hawk and Little Bird attack helicopters.

Trump and Esper said some of the helicopters took fire but that U.S. forces returned fire in self-defense and eliminated the threat. Esper said U.S. forces also destroyed the compound where al-Baghdadi was found to be hiding once the U.S. forces left, but he did not say what kind of platform was used.

They described a harrowing raid in which a number of adults were killed, including two of Baghdadi’s wives who were wearing suicide vests that had not exploded and more adults and children taken into custody.

According to Trump and Esper, U.S. forces, accompanied by military dogs, chased al-Baghdadi, who dragged three of his young children with him into a dead-end tunnel and exploded his suicide vest, killing himself, his children, and collapsing the tunnel.

Esper indicated U.S. forces did not enter the tunnel: “Before we could get in there and get him he blew himself up.”

One dog was injured but survived. Trump said the U.S. forces had a robot with them, but things moved too fast to be able to use it.

Esper declined to say whether U.S. forces had eyes on al-Baghdadi but said there was a “high degree of confidence” that he was in the tunnel, and it was subsequently verified through DNA evidence. U.S. forces also collected intelligence from the raid, having to do with ISIS “origins, future plans, things that we very much want,” Trump said.

Al-Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said.

“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition. But test results gave certain  immediate and totally positive identification. It was him,” Trump said.

Esper said the raid took more than two hours.

Esper was not the only former Army leader in the Situation Room with Trump. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley — who previously served as chief of staff of the Army, was also present.

Milley himself spent time in Army special operations. He served with the Special Forces’ 5th Group as a Green Beret.

Despite a report that some current and retired Army Special Forces were upset with Trump’s press conference discussing the raid in such detail, several current and retired Special Forces sources praised the press conference to Breitbart News and dismissed criticism that the press conference revealed anything that would compromise future raids.

“There aren’t specifics that anyone can take away from that that they can use to their advantage,” one Green Beret told Breitbart News. “The only thing someone can maybe really point to is when he said ,’We were there for two hours,’ but…our dwell time on an objective is never a constant…Literally every mission is different.”

Retired Green Beret Joe Kent, whose wife Navy Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was killed by ISIS in Syria this year, reflected on the successful raid in a tweet:

“When my sons are old enough to know their mother was killed hunting evil it will be an honor to tell them America’s silent warriors relentlessly hunted & destroyed it to avenge her & so many. Thank you brothers & sisters,” he tweeted.

Follow Breitbart News’ @Kristina_Wong.


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