The United States military has conducted a special operations raid targeting one of its most high-value targets, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Newsweek has learned. Donald Trump approved the mission nearly a week before it took place.

Amid reports Saturday of U.S. military helicopters over Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter told Newsweek that Baghdadi was the target of the top-secret operation in the last bastion of the country’s Islamist-dominated opposition, a faction that has clashed with ISIS in recent years. A U.S. Army source briefed on the results of the operation told Newsweek that Baghdadi was killed in the raid. And the Defense Department told the White House they have “high confidence” that the high-value target killed was Baghdadi but further verification is pending.

Members of a team from the Joint Special Operations Command carried out Saturday’s high-level operation after receiving actionable intelligence, according to sources familiar with the operation. The location raided by special operations troops had been under surveillance for some time.

On Saturday night, after the operation had concluded, President Trump tweeted: “Something very big has just happened!”

Baghdadi was “dead pending verification,” the Pentagon source told Newsweek.

abu bark al baghdadi ISIS
High-value target: This July 5, 2014 photo is taken from a propaganda video released by al-Furqan Media allegedly showing the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, addressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Baghdadi, who on June 29, 2014, proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, purportedly ordered all Muslims to obey him in the video released on social media.AFP/GETTY

Baghdadi, an Iraqi national, is an ultraconservative cleric who became active in the Islamist insurgency against U.S. forces following the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was held by U.S. forces in the detention centers of Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, where a number of future jihadi leaders rubbed shoulders while in military custody.

He went on to join Al-Qaeda in Iraq, rising up the ranks of the violent group as it merged with others to form the Islamic State of Iraq and eventually inherited its leadership in 2010, when his predecessor was killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation. As the group took advantage of a U.S. military exit to further expand, he renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham—or the Levant—better known as ISIS, in 2013, seeking to expand to neighboring Syria, where a civil war was raging.

Baghdadi’s forces made lightning gains across both Iraq and Syria, and in 2014 he declared his group a global caliphate from the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque in Iraq’s second city of Mosul in his only known public appearance as ISIS leader. Officially known from then on simply as the Islamic State, the group began to grab world attention not only for atrocities committed across the region, but in high-profile strikes on civilians in the West as well.

The United States involved itself in Syria by backing groups trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in an uprising also supported by Turkey and other regional powers. The Pentagon began to realign itself by partnering with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as ISIS grew increasingly powerful, Islamists overtook the opposition and Russia joined Iran in backing Assad against these factions.

Rival campaigns led by the Syrian government and the Syrian Democratic Force were launched to defeat ISIS, which began to lash out abroad with bloody attacks in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and beyond. The perpetrators of at least three mass killings in the U.S. professed their allegiance to ISIS.

Donald J. Trump


Something very big has just happened!

The group began to lose ground in both Iraq and Syria in recent years, however, with a U.S.-led coalition, Iran and Russia among the international powers hunting for Baghdadi. Though various, conflicting reports have been offered as to his fate and whereabouts no single government has acknowledged any knowledge.

The most persistent of these reports involved him being in the so-called Jazeera region, once a hotbed for ISIS activities, often described as being in poor health condition. As this region was seized by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, however, Baghdadi was nowhere to be seen.

“Baghdadi being in Syria follows his presumed pattern of life operating between Iraq and Syria,” a former senior counterterrorism official who has tracked and supported the capture of operatives traveling from Pakistan to Iraq and Turkey told Newsweek. “If he is dead, that would be a tremendous blow to ISIS Especially if other seniors leaders were killed during this operation.”

As recently as February, Vice-Admiral Igor Kostyukov, head of the Russian general staff’s Main Intelligence Department, told the state-run Tass news agency that Baghdadi’s “whereabouts are unknown,” but “he is definitely not in Idlib.” The site is the base of operations for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a rival jihadi group with ties to Al-Qaeda’s former Nusra Front, headed by Baghdadi’s former associate, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, who refused to join ISIS in a move that created a major rift among the militant groups.

Assad himself was seen on a rare visit to the frontlines of Idlib province in footage released Monday. The Syrian leader told his troops “that the Idlib battle is the core to decisively end chaos and terrorism in all of Syria” and vowed to defeat the array of rebel groups there while also teaming up with Kurdish-led forces against any Turkish-led attempts to push further into northern Syria.

Facing nationwide defeats at the hands of the government and its allies, a number of Syrian rebel groups have opted to reorganize themselves with the support of Turkey. Ankara has mobilized these fighters to battle the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey due to alleged links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Though Trump has withdrawn U.S. Special Forces from northern Syria, he has called for some troops to remain elsewhere in eastern Syria, where much of the country’s oil reserves remain under Kurdish-led control. A convoy of U.S. military vehicles was seen rolling through the city of Qamishli, on its way to eastern Deir Ezzor province.

Turkey has since halted its incursion following back-to-back deals with the U.S. and Russia, which has sought to restore Assad’s authority at the country’s northern border and facilitate a YPG withdrawal. This process remains ongoing, though reports remain of sporadic violence between the two factions, something that some critics of the U.S. exit worried may give ISIS a chance to resurge.

Asked how Baghdadi’s death may affect the U.S. withdrawal, the former senior counterterrorism official told Newsweek, “If you are leaving you want to try to find your targets before you leave.”

The Joint Special Operations Command, out of U.S. Army base Fort Bragg in North Carolina, is a sub-unified command of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Led by U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Scott A. Howell, the command oversees special mission units such as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known to the public as SEAL Team Six and Delta Force respectively.


Shabandar calls on demonstrators to return to their homes: “Your uprising was kidnapped”

Shabandar calls on demonstrators to return to their homes: "Your uprising was kidnapped"


Independent Iraqi politician Izzat Shabandar on Saturday called on the demonstrators to return to their homes, saying that the “intifada has been kidnapped,” warning of a regional plan “dangerous.”

63 people killed in Iraq protests in two days .. Sadr bloc aligned with the opposition

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Sunday, October 27, 2019
Demonstrations continued in Baghdad and a number of Iraqi cities on Saturday evening. In an open sit-in the Iraqi parliament.

Six people were killed on Saturday in renewed protests in Iraq , including three demonstrators in Baghdad, according to an official toll, and three people shot by the protection of a local official in the south of the country, according to security and medical sources.

The death toll from the two days of protests in Iraq, on Friday and Saturday, 63 dead in Baghdad and southern areas, according to the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights.
The UNHCR said on Saturday that the highest toll from clashes since Friday was recorded in Dhi Qar and Missan provinces.
On Saturday’s victims, a member of the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, Ali al-Bayati, said that six people were killed: three in Baghdad and three in Nasiriyah in the south, while police also pointed to 17 wounded in Nasiriyah.
According to security and medical sources in Nassiriya, the three people were shot dead while protesters stormed the house of the head of the security committee in the city and set it on fire. Police said a group of protesters emerged from among thousands gathered in central Nassiriya and stormed the home of a local official. She said the guards fired at the protesters after storming the building. Sources told Al-Arabiya on Saturday evening that security forces forcibly evicted demonstrators from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and used tear gas canisters, killing three people and injuring 84 people. The protesters.
For its part, the Iraqi parliament announced the postponement of its session, Saturday, because of the lack of quorum, and the Council announced the convening of the said meeting, on Friday, to discuss the demands of protesters.
In turn, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that the demonstrations that swept the country, Friday, deviated from its course.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in a statement that the ministry will hold accountable anyone who assaulted public institutions and promised to impose severe penalties on those who committed abuses, pointing out that the assault on property has nothing to do with peaceful protest.
In turn, the Joint Operations Command in the country broke its silence, saying that there were those who took advantage of the demonstrations that came out to demand rights guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution and worked to kill and injure citizens, and to burn public and private property after looting.
The command said in its first official statement that the security forces in all sectors will deal with what they described as criminal criminals firmly in accordance with the anti-terrorism law, noting that these illegal acts are a crime that must be dealt with immediately in the field and urgent. The leadership also warned against tampering with the security of citizens.
The Joint Operations Command statement stressed that strict measures will be taken against those who do not belong to peaceful demonstrators, calling on demonstrators to report these elements and not to allow them to be present in their ranks. It is noteworthy that the protests renewed in Baghdad and other provinces witnessed bloody clashes in the first day, during which killed and wounded, most of them in the southern provinces died as a result of the use of security forces live bullets.
A curfew was imposed in six southern Iraqi provinces, “to preserve the lives of citizens and public and private property.” The Iraqi government, in turn, sent troops from the Counterterrorism Service to southern provinces, where they witnessed

Dhi Qar and Missan clashes between angry demonstrators and members of Asaib Ahl al-Haq who opened fire on the protesters and killed and wounded on the pretext of trying to storm the offices of the militia.
The government also authorized the southern governors to impose a state of emergency and reorganize the ranks according to developments that the Interior Ministry said attacks carried out by armed parties against its forces forced the government to impose a curfew in a number of southern provinces.
Source: Arabic

Govt Slashes Salaries of Top Officials


By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has said it will reduce the salaries of ministers, members of parliament, and senior officials by up to 50 percent, and invest the money saved in a new social security fund to support Iraqis in need.

In a statement on Friday, it also announced the establishment of a special anti-corruption court to expedite the process of holding to account all those who engage in corruption.

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

Death toll in Iraq protests rises to 63, with more than 2,000 injured

The death toll of the protests in Iraqi cities has risen to more than 60 dead and 2,000 wounded.

The death toll of the protests in Iraqi cities has risen to more than 60 dead and 2,000 wounded.

 According to news agencies, the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights counted 63 people killed and more than two thousand others injured during the past 48 hours.

Protesters in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Basra began to demonstrate from Thursday evening, in protest against the poor living conditions.

The protests are the second of its kind this month, with several Iraqi cities recently witnessing protests that have killed 157 people and wounded 6,000.

 The protests pose the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi since he came to power just a year ago, despite his pledge of reforms and a major cabinet reshuffle.

Protesters accuse corrupt officials and the political elite of failing to improve their lives.

Syria news

Reuters: Abdul-Mahdi ordered the counterterrorism service to end demonstrations

27-10-2019 12:55 AM


Two security sources told Reuters on Saturday that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered anti-terrorism forces to deploy in the streets of Baghdad and take the necessary measures to end the protests.

The sources pointed out that “a memo issued by Abdul-Mahdi to the commander of the Iraqi elite to fight terrorism, asking him to deploy his forces and use all necessary measures” to end the protests in Baghdad.

For his part, said a source in Baghdad, security forces gave the demonstrators through loudspeakers half an hour to evacuate Tahrir Square before starting to storm, or else they will be treated as “outlaws.”

He added, “The demonstrators are still trying to cross the bridge of the Republic and access to the Green Zone,” indicating that “significant military security reinforcements arrived there.”

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