As the smoke is still settling down over the charred ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound details about the operation are already emerging.
SOFREP has learned that the assault force was comprised of approximately 70 operators from Delta Force’s A Squadron and Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The air package included eight helicopters, a combination of MH-60 Blackhawks and MH-47 Chinooks, from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). Supporting the operation were two MC-130J Commando II tankers, which provided mid-air refueling, and an unspecified number of F-15Es, which ensured air-superiority and bombed the compound after the assault force had left.
The assault force received fire on its way in, its flight route overflew enemy-held territory, but it was quickly suppressed by the supporting air assets. The Russian government had received notification that an operation against ISIS would be taking place in the area. This ensured that the Russian forces didn’t engage the assault force inadvertently.
Upon reaching the target, the assault force immediately came under fire. Fearing a booby trapped main door, the assault force’s breachers penetrated the compound’s walls. Thereafter, training and experience kicked in and the assault force quickly secured the compound.
Al-Baghdadi tried to flee through one of the many tunnels but picked a wrong one that was a dead-end. He detonated a suicided vest that killed three of his children. Two of his wives, also wearing suicide vests, were killed during the operation. Numerous other ISIS fighters were also killed and a number captured.
The assault team remained on the ground for about two hours conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), which most probably produced actionable intelligence on additional ISIS targets.
Using facial recognition technology, the operators managed to get a positive identification on al-Baghdadi on the spot – after the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, his head separated almost intact. But to be 100 percent sure about his identity, the assault force had to get more biological evidence that was sent for DNA testing.
No operators were injured during the operation but a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) was wounded.
In a televised address to the nation, President Donald Trump said that “This raid was impeccable. [Al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a safer place. . .Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them.”
U.S. intelligence suspected that al-Baghdadi was located in the area since mid-summer. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proved to be key in the operations by furnishing critical and time-sensitive intelligence that pinpointed the location of the ISIS leader. They verified his position almost a month ago. The compound was under continuous surveillance for the past two weeks. The Turkish invasion in northern Syria forced U.S. officials to cancel the operation three times.
Another interesting note about the operation is that the assault force launched from Erbil, Iraq, and not from U.S. Base in Incirlik, Turkey. The former is almost 450 miles from the village the terrorist leader was hiding in; the latter a scant 65 miles.
The mission was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the American humanitarian aid worker caught, raped, and killed by ISIS.
Stay tuned as we continue to cover these events.