The hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is very much on. According to several US officials at one point over the summer Washington believed they had their best shot at killing the terrorist leader in an airstrike, the CNN reported Wednesday.
The strike, which has never been publicly disclosed, was based on intelligence that indicated a senior ISIS leader, quite possibly Baghdadi, was at the particular location.
The officials familiar with the strike said it has never been definitively determined if Baghdadi was actually killed.
But one official said that over recent months "we tried to take several shots at him."
One reason the US remains uncertain if it killed Baghdadi is that in the days and weeks that followed the strike, US intelligence did not intercept any ISIS communications confirming his death and there was no discussion on ISIS social media accounts, US officials said.
Given Baghdadi's stature, the US expects to see significant chatter discussing his death, if he is killed.
The strike occurred after a claim by Russia in June that the ISIS leader might have been killed in one of its airstrikes on the outskirts of Raqqa on May 28. The US has long believed that the Russian claim is not true.
In another instance, US military planners for a ground mission being conducted by US forces thought they were on Baghdadi's trail for a significant period of time.
Intelligence indicated an individual with the name al-Baghdadi was at a target site, a US official confirmed.
Senior administration officials were briefed but a raid did not happen because of concern over the potential number of civilians at the site.
The US official says they now believe Baghdadi was likely not at the location. It remains unclear if that individual was any relation to the ISIS leader.
A consistent problem the US has faced is that intelligence tips on Baghdadi's whereabouts are often not timely, meaning he is likely to have moved on before they are able to mount an operation to take him out.
Baghdadi is believed to remain fairly mobile, often moving by vehicle with just a driver one official said.
Because he potentially remains on the move, the best chance of killing him might come with last minute intelligence that would require a strike by a drone already loitering nearby.
Last Modified: 09 14 2017 11:23 AM
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