The Trump administration released video footage Wednesday of the raid that led to the death of former Daesh/ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The black and white aerial footage depicts a group of militants who the operational commander of the raid said had opened fire on approaching American forces.
The Pentagon has assessed that the fighters were not affiliated with Baghdadi but “nonetheless demonstrated hostile intent against U.S. forces,” Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters at the Pentagon, and were then killed by two airstrikes from supporting helicopters.
Video footage of the strikes shows multiple explosives going off near the group of militants as smoke fills the grainy footage.
Additional video depicts the U.S. special operations force of about 10 service members approaching the compound where al-Baghdadi was holed up.
McKenzie said that following the scene, those inside were repeatedly asked to come out, and after some did, they were detained and released following a weapons check. That group included 11 children, but five individuals refused to comply.
“Five ISIS members inside the compound presented a threat to the force. They did not respond to commands in Arabic to surrender, and they continued to threaten the force,” McKenzie said. “They were then engaged by the raid force and killed.”
He further clarified that the U.S. now assesses Baghdadi took two, not three, children with him as he attempted to flee from American forces. Those children were killed when Baghdadi detonated an explosive vest he was wearing, collapsing the tunnel around him and the children.
In all, six Daesh/ISIS members were killed in the raid, including four women, McKenzie said. The number includes Baghdadi, but not the children he killed when he detonated his vest.
Two other men were taken into U.S. custody.
Trump announced the late-night raid in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province on Sunday.
Additional footage released by the Pentagon shows heavy munitions being used to level the site in an effort, McKenzie said, that was intended to “ensure it would not be a shrine or otherwise memorable in any way.”
“It’s just another piece of ground,” he said.
Before and after pictures show the site’s near-complete razing.
McKenzie confirmed that Baghdadi’s remains have been buried at sea “in accordance with the laws of armed conflict,” similar to how the U.S. disposed of the body of slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The Marine Corps. general further denied suggestions that the pullback of U.S. forces from northern Syria and Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in any way affected the timing of the raid.
“We struck because the time was about right to do it then, given the totality of the intelligence and the other factors that would affect the raid force coming in and going out,” he said.
Under Baghdadi, Daesh spread over wide segments of Iraq and Syria beginning in 2013, eventually claiming the formation of a “caliphate” in the region as it plotted and carried out gruesome attacks that reached far beyond its main territorial bastion. It further set up local affiliates in other regions as it released heinous execution videos on the internet.
Baghdadi had been a top target for the Trump and Obama administrations and had a $25 million bounty placed on his head.
As the U.S.-led coalition took back territories once under the terror group’s hold, Baghdadi increasingly stayed in the shadows, only rarely releasing pre-recorded audio messages to his followers.