US officials Monday (October 28) said that the body of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) leader 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 al-Baghdadi after years of tracking the brutal insurgent leader behind a five-year reign of terror across much of Iraq and Syria.
And an unnamed US military dog became a unlikely hero of the raid, incurring injuries as it chased al-Baghdadi down a dead-end tunnel underneath his northwestern Syria hideout before he blew himself and three children up with a suicide vest.
"His death marks a devastating blow to the remnants of (ISIS)," said US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.
He praised the nearly hundred-strong force that helicoptered to the rural compound in Idlib Province, Syria, in a complex mission that required co-ordination 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.
No one was injured in the operation, despite the US team taking fire when it arrived, said US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
Us forces took two men prisoner, and the troops removed al-Baghdadi's remains after he killed himself.
"Al-Baghdadi's remains were then transported to a secure facility to confirm his identity with forensic DNA testing," Milley said.
Another Pentagon official confirmed that al-Baghdadi's body was dumped into the sea at an unnamed location, similar to the 2011 sea burial of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after he was killed in a US special forces raid in Pakistan.
An inside source overseen by Kurdish forces was responsible for leading US troops to al-Baghdadi's hideout, helping to map out the interior of the compound and to identify its staffing, as well as making it possible for them to identify al-Baghdadi, said a Kurdish official.
"Since 15 May, we have been working together with the CIA [US Central Intelligence Agency] to track al-Baghdadi and monitor him closely," tweeted Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The group had an informant who was able to infiltrate al-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.
Al-Baghdadi distorted the image of Islam, Saudi Arabia said Monday. It hailed his killing by US special forces.
"The kingdom appreciates the US administration's efforts to pursue members of this terrorist organisation that distorted the real image of Islam... and committed atrocities and crimes," said a Saudi Foreign Ministry source, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
"Saudi Arabia continues its efforts with its allies, especially the United States, in fighting terrorism," the source added.