Security

Informant who fingered ISIS leader likely to reap huge reward

By AFP

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An informant who provided crucial details on the movements of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is likely to receive some or all of a $25 million reward offered by the US. [File]

An informant who provided crucial details on the movements of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is likely to receive some or all of a $25 million reward, the Washington Post reported Wednesday (October 30th).

The Post said the informant was a well-placed ISIS operative who facilitated al-Baghdadi's movements around Syria and helped oversee the construction of his Syrian hideout.

US special operations commandos struck the hideout overnight Saturday, swooping in on helicopters and chasing the ISIS founder into a tunnel where he detonated a suicide vest and killed himself.

The Post said the informant was at the scene as the raid unfolded, and was exfiltrated two days later with his family.

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A picture taken on Monday (October 28th) shows Syrians sifting through the rubble at the site of a US-led operation against ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the previous day, on the edge of the small Syrian village of Barisha in Idlib province. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

The man, who was not identified, was likely to receive some or all of the $25 million reward the US had put on al-Baghdadi's head, it said.

Besides al-Baghdadi's movements, the informant knew the room-by-room layout of al-Baghdadi's final Syrian hideout, according to the Post.

The newspaper said the source, described by one official as a Sunni Arab who turned against ISIS after a relative was killed by the group, was cultivated by Kurdish intelligence.

The Kurds eventually turned control over him to the US, who spent weeks establishing his credibility before seizing an opportunity that came up in the past month to launch the raid, according to the Post.

Months of intelligence work

The operation to kill al-Baghdadi took months of intelligence work, with US Special Operation Forces who led the raid relying on Kurdish intelligence.

Polat Can, a senior advisor to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said the fighters teamed up with the CIA on May 15th after al-Baghdadi was spotted in Idlib province.

"Our own source, who had been able to reach al-Baghdadi, brought al-Baghdadi's underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100%) that the person in question was al-Baghdadi himself," Can wrote on Twitter.

SDF commander Gen. Mazloum Abdi, in an interview with NBC News, said the fighters cultivated a security advisor deep within al-Baghdadi's inner circle who provided them a layout of his home.

This included the number of guards, floor plans and tunnels, he said.

The informant stole al-Baghdadi's underwear three months ago and, later, obtained a blood sample, NBC News reported.

The US had DNA samples on file for al-Baghdadi, who had been detained by US forces in 2004 in the Iraqi city of Fallujah before rising to the helm of ISIS.

Unexpected hiding place

Like Osama bin Laden, who was killed in 2011 in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, al-Baghdadi defied conventional wisdom on where he would be hiding.

The SDF said al-Baghdadi had moved from Deir Ezzor, the desert region where ISIS made its last stand against an SDF assault, to a village called Barisha in Idlib, still a major battlefield.

The north-western province is largely controlled by ISIS rival Tahrir al-Sham.

Can, the SDF advisor, said Turkey's incursion this month caused a delay in the operation against al-Baghdadi.

A US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US had decided "it was important that we do it now".

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the US co-ordinated with other militaries through established channels to avoid incidents.

US forces entered the compound by helicopter, quickly neutralised al-Baghdadi's forces in a gun fight and then secured the building to protect civilians.

Al-Baghdadi ran into a tunnel and, aware that he was cornered, detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three children with him, Milley said.

US forces fired missiles, bombs and guns to blow up the compound as they left and disposed of al-Baghdadi's mangled body at sea, officials said.

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