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Baghdadi's likely successor killed by US troops: Trump

Baghdadis likely successor killed by US troops: Trump

WASHINGTON DC: President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the US had "terminated" the "number one replacement" to ISIS leader and world's most terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was killed in an American raid in Syria.

President Trump announced on Sunday that Baghdadi, believed to be 48-year-old, blew himself in his suicide vest as the ISIS leader was chased to the dead end of a tunnel by the US service dogs during a raid by American special forces in northwest Syria.

"Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's number one replacement has been terminated by American troops. Most likely would have taken the top spot - Now he is also Dead!" Trump tweeted.

Baghdadi had not officially named his successor, but several names were being speculated after his death.

Trump told reporters on Sunday that the US knew the potential successors of Baghdadi and was after them.

The president, however, did not specify who the individual was, nor did he give any details on the mission that led to his death.

Multiple media reports from the region have identified him as Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

According to The New York Times, he was being smuggled across northern Syria in the back of an oil tanker truck when it was hit by what witnesses said they believed to be an American airstrike.

"Little is known about him, including his real name and nationality, complicating efforts to confirm that he was the one killed in Sunday's strike. But terrorism experts considered him a possible successor to al-Baghdadi," the report said.

Under Baghdadi, ISIS 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.

Baghdadi had been a top target for both the Trump and Obama administrations, and had a USD 25 million bounty placed on his head.

Meanwhile, US officials have said the body of Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was buried at sea, as fresh details surfaced about the US special forces operation that led to his death over the weekend.

Syrian Kurds claimed to be a key source of the intelligence that led Americans to Baghdadi after years of tracking the man behind a five-year reign of terror across much of Iraq and Syria.

And an unnamed US military dog became an unlikely hero of the raid, incurring injuries as it chased Baghdadi down a dead-end tunnel underneath his northwestern Syria hideout, where the jihadist blew himself and three children up with a suicide vest.

The US military basked in success Monday after eliminating the founder and spiritual guide of the Islamic State (IS) group, capping a years-long campaign to crush the Sunni Muslim extremist organization that had at one point created a "caliphate" the size of England.

"His death marks a devastating blow to the remnants of (IS)," said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

He praised the nearly hundred-strong force that helicoptered to the rural compound in the Idlib region of Syria in a complex mission that required coordination with Russians, Kurds, Turks and President Bashar al-Assad's regime to prevent US aircraft from being fired upon. "They executed the raid in all of its facets brilliantly," Esper said.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said no one was injured in the operation, despite the US team taking fire when they arrived.

They took two men prisoner, and Baghdadi's body was taken to a secure facility for a DNA test that would confirm his identity, Milley said.

"The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately," he added, saying it was handled "in accordance with the law of armed conflict."

Another Pentagon official confirmed that Baghdadi's body was put into the sea at an unnamed location, similar to the 2011 sea burial of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after his death in a US special forces raid in Pakistan.

A Kurdish official said an inside source the group oversaw was responsible for leading US forces to Baghdadi's hideout, helping to map out the interior of the compound, its staffing, as well as making it possible for them to identify Baghdadi.

"Since 15 May, we have been working together with the CIA to track al-Baghdadi and monitor him closely," said Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The group had an informant who was able to infiltrate Baghdadi's house.

"Al-Baghdadi changed his places of residence very often," he said on Twitter.

"Our intelligence source was involved in sending co-ordinates, directing the airdrop, participating in and making the operation a success until the last minute," Polat Can said.

The source also "brought al-Baghdadi's underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100%) that the person in question was al-Baghdadi himself," he said.

Attention focused as well on the unnamed dog -- likely a Belgian Malinois, a breed favored by the military, which chased Baghdadi into a tunnel under the complex and cornered him before he detonated his suicide vest. Trump praised the dog on Sunday as "beautiful," but military officials said any information about it, including its name, was secret.

"It's classified, we're protecting the dog's identity," said

Milley.

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