Syrian and Iraqi Kurds contributed more intelligence than any other actor to the hunt for Islamic State (ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to US and Kurdish officials.
The one-time ‘caliph’ was finally tracked down to a remote village in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib, close to the Turkish border, where US forces launched their daring raid in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The ISIS chief hid “whimpering and crying” in a dead-end tunnel with three of his children before detonating a suicide vest, according to US President Donald Trump.
“I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us,” Trump told a White House press conference on Sunday morning, confirming Baghdadi death.
Although Trump did not specifically name the Iraqi Kurds, the administration and Kurdish officials have both confirmed Iraqi Kurds played an important role in the overnight raid alongside the Syrian Kurds.
“We have worked closely with the Americans for more than five years against Daesh (ISIS) and provided valuable intelligence to them,” one senior Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) intelligence official told Rudaw, on condition of anonymity.
“The Kurdistan Region Security Council played a critical role in this operation, but I am not at liberty to say how,” the official added, referring to the KRG’s intelligence agency.
The official detailed the agency’s role in providing critical intelligence and assistance to the US, but later asked for the information to be withheld.