The U.S. informed Turkey prior to its operation in Idlib early on Oct. 27, Turkish Defense Ministry has said, adding that “information exchange” between the countries took place.
“Prior to the US Operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place,” read a tweet by the ministry on Oct. 27.
The overnight raid is believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria, with U.S. President Donald Trump saying “Something very big has just happened,” in an Oct. 27 tweet.
Baghdadi has long been sought by the United States, as head of a jihadist group that at one point controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq, declaring a caliphate.
ISIS has carried out atrocities against religious minorities and attacks on five continents.
In recent years ISIS has lost most of its territory, although it is still viewed as a threat. Baghdadi has long been believed to be hiding somewhere along the Iraq-Syria border and the United States has offered a $25 million reward for his capture.
The raid in the early hours of Oct. 27 involved helicopters, warplanes and ground clashes in the village of Barisha in Idlib province bordering Turkey, a commander of a militant faction in the region said.
The attacking U.S. forces removed the body of Baghdadi, and that of another man believed to be his deputy, the commander said. The bodies of three other men and three women were also found, he said.
The attack was carried out using eight helicopters that took off from Iraq’s Erbil, in addition to surveillance planes, the commander said.
Two Iraqi security sources and two Iranian officials said they had received confirmation from Syria that Baghdadi had been killed.
“Our sources from inside Syria have confirmed to the Iraqi intelligence team tasked with pursuing Baghdadi that he has been killed with his personal bodyguard in Idlib [province] after his hiding place was discovered when he tried to get his family out of Idlib towards the Turkish border,” one of the Iraqi officials said.
Iraqi state television broadcast night-time footage of an explosion and daytime images of a crater in the ground and what it said was the aftermath of the raid, including torn and blood-stained clothes.
Iraqi intelligence agencies had helped pinpoint Baghdadi’s location, the broadcaster quoted an expert on terrorism as saying.
The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said joint intelligence work with the United States had resulted in a “successful operation”, in another apparent reference to the raid.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said nine people were killed during a two-hour raid, including two women and at least one child. It could not confirm whether Baghdadi was among the dead.
A house thought to be the target of the raid was struck from the air, and fighters then descended from helicopters and engaged in ground clashes, said the Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria.
A senior Turkish official said Baghdadi had arrived at the site of the U.S. raid some 48 hours before it took place, adding that Turkey’s military – which has been waging its own offensive against the SDF in northern Syria – had advance knowledge of the U.S. operation in Idlib.
U.S. magazine Newsweek, which first reported news of the raid, said it had been told by a U.S. Army official briefed on the raid that Baghdadi was dead.