Spies stole ISIS leader al-Baghdadi's underwear to help confirm his location before the US raid, Kurdish forces say

Spies stole ISIS leader al-Baghdadi's underwear to help confirm his location before the US raid, Kurdish forces say

FILE - This file image made from video posted on a militant website April 29, 2019, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, being interviewed by his group's Al-Furqan media outlet. The IS erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq's conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a

Associated Press

Screenshot from a video, published in April 2019, showing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

  • The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were vital to the US mission to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Saturday.
  • The SDF and the CIA had been working together to establish al-Baghdadi's whereabouts for more than four months before the weekend raid, according to senior SDF adviser Polat Can.
  • A strange element of the cooperation: SDF agents stole al-Baghdadi's underwear and tested it for DNA to be sure of his location before the raid, Can said.
  • Can said the US withdrawal from Syria, and Turkey's subsequent military incursion, hindered the SDF operation on al-Baghdadi.
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Kurdish forces were able to confirm ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's location ahead of the US raid by stealing his underwear to test his DNA, an advisor to the group said.

Al-Baghdadi died last weekend when he detonated a suicide vest while being pursued into a tunnel network in Barisha, northwest Syria, by US special forces.

Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), revealed details of a four-month-long plan to kill al-Baghdadi in a series of Tuesday tweets.

Baghdadi residence

Maxar Technologies / Handout via REUTERS.

A satellite image taken in September 2019 of al-Baghdadi's residence in Barisha, northwestern Syria, at the time of the US raid.


The SDF and the CIA had been working together since May 15, 2019, to track al-Baghdadi's location, Can said.

Because the ISIS leader changed residence so often, it was important to nail down where he was living before any raid.

The SDF was able to confirm al-Baghdadi's residence through an unnamed source who was able to reach the house where the terrorist leader was hiding out.

The source stole his underwear for DNA testing to confirm his identity, Can said.

"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 tweeted.


al-Baghdadi raid

Ahmet Weys/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An aerial view of the operation area where al-Baghdadi was killed, taken on October 28, 2019.

The US troops in northeastern Syria had been working with the SDF to fight ISIS militants in Syria, and their departure from the country paved the way for Turkey - which sees the Kurdish militants as terrorists - to drive them out of Syria.

Can said that Trump's decision to withdraw the majority of US troops from northeastern Syria - and Turkey's subsequent invasion - had impeded the SDF's work on al-Baghdadi.

It appears to be further evidence that the success of the al-Baghdadi operation happened in spite of, and not because of Trump.

white house situation room photo killing al baghdadi trump pence generals 2

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump (center) and Vice President Mike Pence (second-left) surrounded by defense officials in the White House Situation Room on the day of the al-Baghdadi raid on October 26, 2019.


Trump said on Sunday that "lab technicians" were present at the raid, and conducted tests on the spot to establish al-Baghdadi's identity after his death. He added that US forces took with them "substantial parts" of his body.

"As I said, they brought body parts back with them, etc., etc. There wasn't much left," he told reporters. "The - the vest blew up, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back."

Trump and the US military have separately hinted that the US would release footage of the secretive al-Baghdadi operation, though it's not clear what part of the mission it would be.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a photo of a military dog involved in the raid.