Stolen Underwear and a Vengeful Spy Led to Baghdadi's Undoing

Syrian Kurdish officials stressed that their spy and their months of work with the CIA were crucial to the U.S. raid that took out the ISIS leader.
October 29, 2019, 2:21pm
Syrian Kurdish officials stressed that their spy and their months of work with the CIA were crucial to the US raid that took out the ISIS leader.

It was the underpants that were his undoing.

Syrian Kurdish officials say their spy within Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s inner circle stole a worn pair of the ISIS leader’s underwear for DNA testing, to verify his identity ahead of the U.S. raid Saturday that resulted in his death.

The statement was made by Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia, who detailed on Twitter how Kurdish officials had been working with the CIA since May to track the terrorists’ leader.

“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,” he wrote.

Can said the access to Baghdadi — described by U.S. President Donald Trump as “the world’s number one terrorist leader” — was the “result of our own work,” and stressed that the Kurds’ intelligence asset played a key role in the operation. “Our intelligence source was involved in sending coordinates, directing the airdrop, participating in, and making the operation a success until the last minute,” he said.

He said Baghdadi changed locations frequently, and that the raid on his northern Syria compound was carried out shortly before the ISIS leader was planning to move to a new location in Jerablus, on the border with Turkey.

READ: Baghdadi is dead. That doesn’t mean ISIS is.

SDF leader Gen. Mazloum Abdi elaborated on the claims in an interview with NBC Monday, saying the intelligence source, described as one of Baghdadi's security advisers, had also provided U.S. intelligence with a sample of the ISIS leader’s blood, after first obtaining his underwear. A Kurdish official said the underwear was stolen about three months ago, and the blood sample taken a month ago.

Abdi said the intelligence source had been motivated to give up Baghdadi out of a sense of revenge, and had been present at the leader’s compound when the raid took place.

The description of the critical role played by Kurdish assets in the operation differs from Trump’s account, in which he gave a fleeting acknowledgment of the Kurds for providing “some information that turned out to be helpful,” alongside others including Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey — which is currently waging a brutal offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria.

According to Can, Turkey’s assault on the Kurds — which was triggered by Trump’s sudden decision two weeks ago to withdraw U.S. military support for the Kurds, a longstanding ally in Syria — caused the raid on Baghdadi to be delayed.

“More than a month ago, the decision was made to eliminate al-Baghdadi. However, the U.S. withdrawal and the Turkish invasion prompted us to stop our special operations, including the pursuit of al-Baghdadi. The Turkish invasion caused a delay in the operation,” Can said.

The latest ceasefire in the offensive, brokered by Russia and Turkey last week, is due to end Tuesday, at which point Russian and Turkish troops will begin joint patrols of a buffer zone along the border that Kurdish forces have withdrawn from.

READ: Baghdadi blew himself up “whimpering and crying,” says Trump

Amid sporadic violence Tuesday, the UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian government forces and the Turkish military had clashed for the first time since Ankara launched its invasion three weeks ago.

At least six Syrian soldiers were wounded in clashes near the village of Assadiya, south of the border town of Ras al-Ain, the monitoring group said.

Cover: People look at a destroyed houses near the village of Barisha, in Idlib province, Syria, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, after an operation by the U.S. military which targeted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group. President Donald Trump says Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead after a U.S. military operation in Syria targeted the Islamic State group leader. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

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