US killed Daesh head in 4-hour raid in N.Syria: Sources

IDLIB, Syria

A U.S. raid that allegedly killed Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria lasted for some four hours, according to local sources. 

The operation, in which helicopters, drones, and ground units were used, took place a few kilometers away from the Tourlaha camp, where displaced civilians have taken shelter in the northern Idlib province, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to security concerns.

The location was first pounded by eight U.S. helicopters and two drones for over an hour and a half, the sources said.

According to the sources, unidentified elements on the ground then responded with heavy fire.

Following this initial fight, helicopters returned to the area and opened fire on targets on the ground before landing and dispatching fighters — thought to be U.S. Special Forces — on the ground.

The sources said the second phase of fighting continued for two-and-a-half hours, with U.S. helicopters leaving the area after a total period of four hours.

Medics who rushed to the area said they saw a collapsed house and some burned tents near the site of the U.S. raid.

Seven bodies — three men, three women, and a child — were reportedly collected from the site by the medics, who also provided first aid to five wounded people, the sources added.

The airspace over Idlib is currently under the control of Russia, which is the main supporter of the Assad regime.

U.S. media reports early Sunday said that al-Baghdadi was believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid, but there has been no official confirmation.

U.S. President Donald Trump early Sunday tweeted: “Something very big has just happened!” He is expected to give a statement at 9 a.m. local time (1400GMT) on Sunday, according to the White House.

Up to today Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and status have been a mystery, and multiple claims had previously been made about his death in Iraq and Syria.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara.

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