Iraqi state television has aired footage of what it said was a raid in Syria that reportedly killed Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Baghdadi was reportedly targeted in the early hours of Sunday in the Syrian village of Barisha near the Turkish border, in an operation which involved helicopters, warplanes and a ground clash.
US President Donald Trump prepared to make a “major statement” at the White House, while unnamed sources in Iraq, Syria and Iran said they were informed of the development.
Day-time footage on Iraq’s state broadcaster showed a crater in the ground and what appeared to be the aftermath of a raid, with torn blood-stained clothes on the ground. It also showed night-time footage of an explosion.
The broadcaster quoted an expert on terrorism saying that Iraqi intelligence agencies had helped pinpoint Baghdadi’s location.
The Britain-based war monitor, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said nine people were killed during the two-hour raid, including two women and at least one child. It did not know if Baghdadi was among the dead.
A senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and a US Army official briefed on the matter told the media early on Sunday that a “high value ISIS (Daesh) target” – believed to be Baghdadi – was targeted during a top-secret operation in Syria’s Idlib province.
Idlib is the last bastion of foreign-backed terrorists, where a “safe zone” set up by Turkey has prevented Syrian troops from returning the territory to the government fold.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said Turkish and US military authorities had exchanged and coordinated information ahead of the attack.
“Prior to the US operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place,” the ministry said on Twitter.
The news about the death of al-Baghdadi comes in the wake of US withdrawal of troops from Syria.
A series of reports from Syria in recent months have suggested that the US was airlifting Daesh and other Takfiri militants to unknown locations in the face of advancing Syrian troops who have recaptured most of the country from terrorists.
US sources said Sunday the Joint Special Operations Command carried out the raid after receiving actionable intelligence.
The commander of Kurdish SDF militants also claimed that his fighters played a role in the raid, providing intelligence to the American forces.
“A historic, successful operation as a result of joint intelligence work with the United States of America,” Mazloum Abdi said on Twitter.
US officials told NBC News that forensic teams were working on the scene of the raid to identify al-Baghdadi’s remains.