The Pentagon on Wednesday published footage from the operation to eliminate Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“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,” said General Frank McKenzie, the Commander of USCENTCOM.
"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."
"The general outline of the mission was a helicopter assault by special operation forces that were pre-staged in Syria. I can assure you that the plan was significantly more complex than that, and designed to avoid detection by ISIS and others prior to and during execution, to avoid civilian casualties,” continued McKenzie.
Baghdadi’s isolated compound was located in Idlib province in northwest Syria.
“At the compound, fighters from two locations in the vicinity of the compound began firing on U.S. aircraft participating in the assault,” described McKenzie. “With the assault force surrounding the compound, we repeatedly urged those inside to come out peacefully.”
"I want to make it clear that despite the high-pressure and high-profile nature of this assault that every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and to protect children we suspected would be in the compound," he added.
"When capture at the hands of U.S. forces was imminent, Baghdadi detonated a bomb killing himself and two young children."
“After Baghdadi's murder-suicide, our assault force cleared significant debris from the tunnel and secured Baghdadi's remains for DNA identity confirmation,” said McKenzie. “The rapid analysis showed a direct match between the samples and produced a level of certainty that the remains belonged to Baghdadi of 1 in 104 septillion.”
Baghdadi's remains were buried at sea in accordance with the Law of Armed conflict within 24 hours of his death, McKenzie confirmed.
“This operation was exquisitely planned and executed. It demonstrates the United States' global reach and our unwavering commitment to destroy ISIS. This was a true inter-agency effort so I commend our partners across the U.S. government," he said.
“The individuals who planned and conducted this mission are quiet professionals, focused on their mission above glory or recognition. Committed people did hard, risky work, and they did it well."