- A member of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s inner circle was key to helping US commandos execute the raid on Baghdadi’s compound on Saturday, The Washington Post reports.
- The informant was a disillusioned Islamic State member who helped oversee construction of Baghdadi’s hideout in Idlib, Syria, where he died by detonating a suicide vest in an underground tunnel. He was present during the raid, but he and his family have since been removed from the area.
- The informant’s nationality is unknown, but he has been assisting the US and partner forces for months, retrieving a pair of the Islamic State leader’s used underwear three months ago to confirm Baghdadi’s presence in the compound in Idlib, Syria, where he died.
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A trusted member of so-called Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi turned against the terrorist, playing a key role in the mission to capture or kill him in a Saturday night raid, according to a new report from Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post.
The mole, whose nationality is not yet known, was so ensconced in Baghdadi’s inner circle that he was trusted to escort members of the Islamic State leader’s family to medical appointments, officials familiar with the matter told The Post, and the informant was present during the raid by US Delta Force operators. The informant and his family were removed from the region two days after the raid, and he may receive some or all of the $25 million bounty the US had put on Baghdadi, The Post reported.
The informant is a disillusioned Islamic State member who was initially cultivated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after a family member was killed by the terrorist group, The Post reported. SDF leaders then brought in US intelligence officials, who vetted the source thoroughly, according to US and Middle Eastern officials familiar with the operation who spoke to The Post.
SDF commander Gen. Mazloum Abdi has said that a SDF asset was key to the operation against Baghdadi, telling NBC News that the source had taken items from Baghdadi’s compound, including used underwear about three months ago, according to NBC News, so that US operatives could confirm that Baghdadi was indeed in the compound.
It was the source’s knowledge of Baghdadi’s hideout — he oversaw construction of the safe house — that proved so vital to the operation, as well as the intelligence that Baghdadi always had a suicide vest on him in case he were to be captured.
“It was assessed for quite a while that the person might have the key to the lock,” one of the US officials told The Post, which reported that the informant began assisting in the operation over the summer. “That only really seriously became clear within the last couple of weeks.”
Baghdadi had been notoriously difficult to track, and Saturday’s raid was the culmination of years of work by the US, allies and partner forces, which have been embedded in the region, on the hunt for Baghdadi since 2015. The Islamic State leader eschewed mobile phones and trackable devices, and frequently moved location in order to avoid detection.
In fact, the informant was entrusted with helping Baghdadi change locations around Idlib, before he and his entourage ended up in the compound in the village of Barisha. The informant turned US forces to Idlib — an unlikely place for the Iraqi Baghdadi to hide out, especially given that it is under Russian air control, and militia factions control the ground — and US and French forces zeroed in on Baghdadi over the summer.
The Pentagon and the White House haven’t yet commented on the presence of an informant in Baghdadi’s inner circle.
“I’m not going to comment on what may or may not have happened with the SDF on the objective,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday when asked whether the SDF was involved with Saturday’s operation.
“The actions on the objective, the aircraft coming in, the aircraft overhead, and the soldiers conducting the assault, was a US-only operation.”