Baghdadi killing ‘a new step in anti-terror fight’: Erdoğan

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The killing of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a turning point in the fight against terrorism, the Turkish president said on Oct. 27.

“The killing of Daesh’s ringleader marks a turning point in our joint fight against terrorism,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter, using an Arabic acronym for the ISIL.

He said Turkey would “continue to support anti-terror efforts — as it has done in the past”. “I am confident that a decisive struggle against terrorism, in line with the spirit of alliance, will bring peace to all of humanity.”

Al-Baghdadi, the man who led the ISIL terror organization as it swept up large swaths of Iraq and Syria, was killed in a U.S. night-time raid in northwestern Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Oct. 27.

Citing two anonymous sources from the Pentagon and the army, it said the U.S. military conducted special operations raid against al-Baghdadi in Idlib, northwestern Syria. Baghdadi, who had led the jihadist group since 2010, killed himself in a tunnel in northwest Syria by detonating a suicide vest as U.S. forces closed in, according to Trump.

Al-Baghdadi’s body was mutilated in the blast, and the tunnel caved in on him. To get to his corpse, troops had to dig through debris. “There wasn’t much left,” Trump said, “but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back.”

That’s when the military raid turned into a forensics operation – and the special forces had come prepared. They had brought along samples of al-Baghdadi’s DNA. The soldiers who conducted the raid thought the man who fled looked like al-Baghdadi, Lab technicians conducted an onsite DNA test to make sure and within 15 minutes of his death, positively identified the target.

“It was him,” Trump said.

Trump said U.S. troops remained in the compound for about two hours after al-Baghdadi’s death and recovered highly sensitive material about ISIL, including information about its future plans. After the American troops retreated, U.S. fighter jets fired six rockets at the house, leveling it.

Trump thanked Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iraq for their cooperation in the raid, further saying Ankara was “terrific,” and noting U.S. forces “flew over” some Turkish territory during the mission.

Ahead of the operation Turkey and the U.S. exchanged information, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Oct. 28. Prior to the operation the U.S. shared information and there was “exchange of views,” he told reporters.

“Turkey was in cooperation [with the U.S.] in the killing of al-Baghdadi],” he said.

“We believe that cooperation against terror groups should not end with the killing of high-profile leaders but should continue until all cells of the groups are eradicated and all members of the group are brought to justice,” Turkey’s director of communications Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.

“Once again, we want to emphasize the dangers of support for any terror group for the overall stability and security in Syria and the region. The international community should unite to fight against the threat of terrorism,” he added.

“Our military and intelligence units were in contact with their American counterparts on this issue and they coordinated. Especially…the night when the operation was conducted, we can say there was intense diplomacy between our military authorities,” Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın told reporters on Oct. 28.

“A terrorist organization nesting in Syria, near our border, or any other region, is not something we can accept,” he added.

Before and during its operation in northwestern Syria that killed a terrorist ringleader, the U.S. acted “within the spirit of alliance and strategic partnership” in the fight primarily against ISIL and PKK/YPG terror groups, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Oct. 27.

Underlining that U.S. and Turkish military officials coordinated and exchanged information prior to the operation on Oct. 26, the ministry said in a statement that Ankara warned its forces and “took timely measures to ensure operational and personnel security,” on the basis of “interoperability and prevention of mutual interference with U.S. elements.”

“Prior to the U.S. operation in Idlib province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place,” the ministry said on Twitter.

“The Defense Ministry does not have reliable information about the actions of the U.S. army in the Idlib ‘de-escalation’ zone… concerning the umpteenth ‘death’” of Baghdadi, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. He said there were “contradictory details” which raised “legitimate questions and doubts about the success of this American operation” and added that since the final defeat of the ISIL by the Syrian government with the support of Russian air power in 2018, the “umpteenth death” of al-Baghdadi “has no operational significance for the situation in Syria nor for the actions of the remaining terrorists in Idlib.”

But later on Oct. 28 President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Our officers really saw U.S. planes in the area, they saw drones in the area which could have been working there” as Trump had claimed. “If this information about Baghdadi’s death is really confirmed, then, in general, we can speak of a serious contribution by the US president to the battle with international terrorism,” Peskov told reporters.

“The death of al-Baghdadi is a hard blow against Daesh but it is just a stage,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

“The death of Baghdadi is an important moment in our fight against terror but the battle against the evil of Daesh is not yet over,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.

Russian delegation to visit Turkey

Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu said withdrawal of the YPG group continues as part of a deal with Russia and the process is yet to finalize and a Russian military delegation will visit Turkey to discuss both the pullout of the YPG from 444 kilometers along the Turkish border into 30 km depth, and also the issue of planned joint patrols with Russian soldiers in 10 kilometers depth in northern Syria.

Hurriyet Daily News

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