The US military has disposed of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains by allegedly dumping them at sea, giving him the same controversial burial as former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The US commandos, who chased down Baghdadi inside a dead-end tunnel in Syria and forced him to blow up himself along with three of his children on Saturday, took what was left of his body and dumped it into the sea in a secret location, three unnamed US officials told Reuters.
The officials even claimed that Baghdadi’s body was given religious rites before being disposed of, but refused to give any hints as to where the burial took place or how long it took before they got rid of the body.
Two of the sources said the slain Daesh chief’s remains were delivered to the sea from an aircraft.
Washington has yet to comment on the reports or provide the details of the process.
US Army General Mark Milley, who only became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the beginning of October, told a Pentagon news briefing on Monday that Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of “appropriately, in accordance with our (standard operating procedures) and in accordance with the law of armed conflict.”
Milley added that Baghdadi’s remains were first transported to a secure facility to confirm his identity with forensic DNA testing.
“The disposal of his remains has been done, it’s been done and is complete,” Milley said.
Upon announcing the successful operation, US President Donald Trump said Sunday that Baghdadi’s body had been “mutilated” after he detonated a suicide vest. The explosion was so powerful that the tunnel collapsed on the dead bodies, he added.
He said the Daesh chief’s identity was confirmed by on-site DNA tests “15 minutes” after he was killed.
Baghdadi’s body shared the same fate as that of bin Laden, which was allegedly dumped into sea back in 2011 following a similar operation by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan.
As for bin Laden’s burial, US officials claimed at the time that his body had been transported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, where it was washed and wrapped in a white sheet before being released into the sea — likely at some unspecified location in the Indian Ocean.
When criticized why they did not bury bin Laden in land, American officials said at the time that they did not want his grave to turn into a shrine for extremists.
Reacting to the US announcement of the operation, the spokesman for Iran’s government, Ali Rabiei, drew an analogy between Baghdadi and bin Laden.
“Deaths of bin Laden and Baghdadi only ended a chapter in the fight against the Daeshi brand of terrorism,” he wrote in an opinion piece on Sunday, adding that the concept is still thriving “through American policies and regional petrodollars.”
SDF says helped identify Daesh chief via ‘blood, underwear’
The Syrian Kurdish militant group SDF, which is allied with the US, said Monday that it had helped the operation by providing the American forces with intelligence as well as a pair of the Daesh chief’s underwear to prove his identity.
Polat Can, a senior advisor to the Kurdish group, said on Twitter that a “source” within Baghdadi’s closest circle had been able to snatch a pair of his underpants and bring it back for DNA testing by US officials.
“Our own source, who had been able to reach al-Baghdadi, brought al-Baghdadi’s underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100%) that the person in question was al-Baghdadi himself,” Can said.
Can said the SDF had been working since May 15 with the CIA to track Baghdadi, and managed to confirm that he had moved from Dayr al-Zawr in eastern Syria to Idlib, where he was killed.
Baghdadi had been about to change location to the Syrian town of Jarablus when the operation happened, he said.
“All intelligence and access to al-Baghdadi as well as the identification of his place, were the result of our own work. Our intelligence source was involved in sending coordinates, directing the airdrop, participating in and making the operation a success until the last minute,” Can said.
SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali told CNN that the informant had also provided the US military with a blood sample of Baghdadi.
Trump says might release video of operation
Trump said on Monday that he might declassify and release part of the Sunday operation.
The video would reportedly include aerial footage as well as footage from cameras mounted on the soldiers who stormed Baghdadi’s compound in a village named Barisha, near Syria’s border with Turkey.
“We’re thinking about it. We may,” Trump told reporters before flying to Chicago. “We may take certain parts of it and release it.”
Milley refused to reveal whether Washington had video footage from inside the building, which he said Baghdadi had been visiting “on a consistent basis.”
“I’m not going to classify the video — what we do have, what we don’t have, at this time. I’ve seen a lot,” Milley said. “And I’ll wait until everything is appropriately declassified here in the coming days.”
Trump said Sunday that Baghdadi had died “whimpering and crying” as he hit the dead-end and felt the US force getting closer.
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” the US president said.
Milley did not confirm that account and said Trump must have heard it first-hand from members of the elite unit that conducted the operation.
Trump said that he watched the entire operation from the White House along with his top aides. He marveled to reporters about the quality of the video feed, saying it was “like a movie.”