Trump: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead
The Russian military on Sunday questioned the official US account of the military raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying it was not aware of any US military operations in the region.
In a statement, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the Russian military “does not have reliable information” on a US Special Operations raid in Syria’s Idlib province, adding: “The increasing number of direct participants and countries that allegedly took part in this ‘operation,’ each one giving completely contradictory details, raises legitimate questions and doubts about its existence and especially the level of its success.”
In a statement that followed the raid, President Trump thanked Russia for its assistance, as well as Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the Syrian Kurds.
Russia maintains a major base in Syria at Latakia. Konashenkov said, however, that the Russian military had observed no strikes by US aircraft in the region.
“Firstly, on Saturday and in recent days no air strikes were made on the Idlib de-escalation zone by US aircraft or the so-called ‘international coalition’ were recorded,” Konashenkov said. “Secondly, we are not aware of any alleged assistance to the passage of American aviation into the airspace of the Idlib de-escalation zone during this operation.”
Konashenkov argued in his statement that Syrian government backed by Russian air power had defeated ISIS, saying that al-Baghdadi’s death “has absolutely no operational significance on the situation in Syria or on the actions of the remaining terrorists in Idlib.”
Russia, which backs the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has long argued that the US military has no legal basis to operate in Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated President Trump on the mission against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but warned there is still more work ahead against terrorist organizations.
"I would like to congratulate President Trump on his impressive achievement on that led to the assassination of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi," Netanyahu said in a statement posted on social media today from the Palmachim air force base in central Israel.
"This reflects our shared determination, of the United States and of all the free countries, to fight terrorist organizations and terrorist states. This achievement is an important milestone, but the campaign is still in front of us," Netanyahu added.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told ABC News’ “This Week” it was a “mistake” that the Trump Administration didn’t notify the Congressional “Gang of Eight” before the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying it’s important to do so when there’s a high-level of danger in military actions.
The "Gang of Eight" consists of the top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committee as well as congressional leaders from both parties.
“In terms of notifying the Gang of Eight, that wasn't done. Look, the reason to notify the Gang of Eight is frankly more important when things go wrong. If -- the president said it was dangerous flying in. The Russians could have shot down American planes,” Schiff said.
Schiff went on to add, "Had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight with the Russians, it’s to the administration’s advantage to be able to say, ‘We informed Congress we were going in, they were aware of the risks. We at least gave them the chance to provide feedback.’ That wasn't done here. I think that's a mistake.”
Earlier today: President Trump told reporters today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not informed ahead of the raid that killed the ISIS leader. CNN’s Ted Barrett reports Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was not briefed ahead of time either, according to a source with familiar with the situation.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly congratulated the US over the operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, though she warned it was “early retirement for a terrorist, but not for his organisation”.
“We will continue the fight against [ISIS] without rest, with our partners and adapting to new regional circumstances” Parly wrote on Twitter.
Some context: ISIS operates in West Africa, Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan and the Philippines, and has followers in Europe and elsewhere. That in addition to, according to a report issued by the Pentagon’s Inspector General in August, between 14,000 and 18,000 fighters between Syria and Iraq.
A Turkish offensive in North Syria delayed the operation to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi “by more than a month," the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Sunday.
The operation took place with “effective” participation of SDF intelligence, SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel told reporters in Hassakah.
“In the past few days we confirmed where he was… and the information was shared with the US, especially with CIA,” he added.
The raid was the was the result of five months of joint work and coordination with American intelligence, but was delayed due to the “Turkish aggression,” he added.
President Trump told reporters today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not informed ahead of the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Saturday.
“I didn’t do that,” Trump said, adding that he wanted to make sure the operation was kept secret.
Pelosi’s office confirmed to CNN's Manu Raju there was no notice given ahead of the raid to it.
CNN’s Ted Barrett reports Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was not briefed ahead of time, according to a source with familiar with the situation.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper described the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a "devastating blow" to a terrorist organization that has launched horrific attacks across the world.
"This is not just their leader, it's their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways," Esper told Jake Tapper Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Esper added that "we're going to watch carefully next steps. And as a new leader and leaders pop up we'll go after them as well."
The secretary told Tapper that President Donald Trump approved the US raid "late last week" after being presented with different options. The objective, Esper said, was capturing him or if necessary, killing him.
"The President approved a raid on the target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we didn't capture him, of course, we were going to kill him," Esper said. "He reviewed them, asked some great questions, chose the option that we thought gave us the highest probability of success and confirmation that the head of ISIS would be there and either captured and killed and then we executed from there."
The secretary explained that al-Baghdadi refused to surrender to US forces before detonating a suicide vest and killing himself during a US military raid in northwest Syria on Saturday.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Trump approved the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this past week with the objective of capturing him or if necessary, killing him.
"The President approved a raid on the target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we didn't capture him, of course, we were going to kill him," Esper said in a pre-taped interview with CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper.
Esper said soldiers tried to get al-Baghdadi to surrender but he killed himself instead, as the President said.
"We tried to call him out and asked him to surrender himself. He refused. He went down to a subterranean area and in the process of trying to get him out, he detonated a suicide vest, we believe, and killed himself."
According to Esper, US officials presented the President with options this past week.
"The President was taken options this week (he meant last week). He reviewed them, asked some great questions, chose the option that we thought gave us the highest probability of success and confirmation that the head of ISIS would be there and either captured or killed," Esper said
Esper also said there were two minor US injuries to soldiers in the operation. Trump had only indicated a US K-9 was injured.
"We had two minor casualties, two minor injuries, to our soldiers," Esper said. "They've already returned to duty."
Dan Scavino, the director of social media for the White House, tweeted a photo of President Trump in the Situation Room monitoring developments as US Special Operations forces closed in on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound in Syria.
“President Trump is joined by VP Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, left; Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations on the Joint Staff, at right, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in the Situation Room of the White House monitoring developments as U.S. Special Operations forces close in on notorious ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound in Syria with a mission to kill or capture the terrorist," Scavino tweeted.