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Head Of U.S. Central Command Says ISIS Leader Baghdadi Buried At Sea

Central Command Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie speaks to reporters Wednesday at the Defense Department about the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a U.S. raid in Syria.
Central Command Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie speaks to reporters Wednesday at the Defense Department about the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a U.S. raid in Syria.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie says the body of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was buried at sea after last weekend's commando raid in Syria in which he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and two young children in order to avoid capture.

McKenzie, speaking at a Pentagon briefing, said the two children are believed to have been under the age of twelve. In their initial reports, U.S. officials had said that there were three children.

When asked about President Trump's claims last week that Baghdadi died "whimpering" and "crying," the general said the ISIS leader "crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground. You can deduce what kind of person it is, based on that activity. I'm not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds."

McKenzie said DNA analysis confirmed that U.S. forces had intercepted Baghdadi. The operation, staged from northwestern Syria, was accomplished without any U.S. casualties.

He said a total of six ISIS members died in the raid — four women and two men, including Baghdadi.

McKenzie said that between 10 and 15 other non-ISIS militants died when they approached U.S. forces during the raid.

As for the future of ISIS, McKenzie said "we are under no illusions that it will go away just because we killed Baghdadi."

While the group finds a new leader, McKenzie said, "Their actions may be a little disjointed. They will be dangerous. We expect they will try some sort of retribution attack. We're postured and prepared for that."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.