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US releases Baghdadi raid video

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon on Wednesday released its first images from last weekend’s commando raid in Syria that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and warned the militant group may attempt to stage a “retribution attack.”

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The declassified, grainy, black-and-white aerial videos from Saturday’s raid showed U.S. special operations forces closing in on the compound and U.S. aircraft firing on militants nearby.

The most dramatic video showed a massive, black plume of smoke rising from the ground after U.S. military bombs leveled Baghdadi’s compound.

The Raid

“The mission was a difficult, complex, and precise raid that was executed with the highest level of professionalism, and in the finest tradition of the U.S. military.” – U.S. Central Command Commander U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr. provides opening remarks during a news conference at the Pentagon Oct. 30.

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

“It looks pretty much like a parking lot, with large potholes,” said Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East.

McKenzie, briefing Pentagon reporters, said the idea of destroying the compound was at least in part “to ensure that it would not be a shrine or otherwise memorable in any way.

“It’s just another piece of ground,” he said.

McKenzie said he brought two young children into the tunnel with him – not three, as had been the U.S. government estimate. Both children were believed to be under the age of 12 and both were killed, he said.

McKenzie did not back up or knock down Trump’s dramatic account of Baghdadi’s final moments, which the president delivered during a televised address to the nation on Sunday. Trump said Baghdadi “died a coward — crying, whimpering, screaming.”

Asked about Trump’s account, McKenzie said: “About Baghdadi’s last moments, I can tell you this: He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up as his people stayed on the ground.”

“So you can deduce what kind of person he is based on that activity… I’m not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds. I just can’t confirm that one way or another.”

On Monday, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also declined to confirm Trump’s account, saying he presumed Trump got that information from his direct conversations with members of the elite unit that conducted the operation. Milley had not yet spoken with them, he said.

McKenzie suggested the U.S. military had secured a large amount of intelligence about Islamic State’s activities during the raid.

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