Intelligence that lead to the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came from a captured courier and aide of al-Baghdadi’s wife. U.S. Delta Force flew approximately 70 miles from Erbil, Iraq to Barisha, Syria in a mix of Apache and CH-7 Chinooks helicopters to conduct the raid that took place at approximately midnight local time. Times John Walcott writes abridged:
After years of trying in vain to get a real-time lock on al-Baghdadi’s location, the big break came not from space or from a strategically located eavesdropping post, but from the wife of an al-Baghdadi aide and one of the couriers he employed to avoid using mobile phones and computers that could have made him easier to track. U.S. officials said the two were captured in western Iraq.
Using names and locations that the wife and courier gave up, two U.S. officials said on Sunday, the CIA and Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officers began recruiting agents along the routes that al-Baghdadi traveled in the desert astride the Syrian-Iraqi border. Officials began surveilling routes he used, places he stopped, and looking for patterns to his travel, including his brief stays in small villages such as the one where he died.
The U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Florida, had standing plans for targeting al-Baghdadi and his small inner circle, said a third official. Some called for the use of drones, which the CIA and the military have employed in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, this official said. Others relied more heavily on inserting Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs on the ground, as the U.S. did in targeting al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
The official described the plans as “basic blueprints” and said they were rehearsed and updated constantly as ISIS lost its grip on cities such as Mosul, where the group’s leaders hid among thousands of civilians.
“I don’t think we could have done this without the help we got from the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, which continued after we began the troop pullout,” one of the officials said, quickly adding that Iraq military and intelligence officers “kicked the whole thing off.”
President Donald Trump gave approval for the operation, codenamed Kayla Mueller after an American woman taken hostage, raped repeatedly and murdered, to begin on Friday (5 p.m. EDT), the first two officials said, and the raid began at roughly midnight local time at the airfield in Erbil, Iraq with a mix of eight Apache attack and CH-47 Chinook helicopters carrying Delta Force special operators and at least one dog.