WASHINGTON: US authorities have disposed of the remains of Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and have no plans to release photos or videos of his death at this time, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mike Milley, said Monday.
Al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest to kill himself as US forces closed in on him, President Donald Trump said on Sunday. "The disposal of his remains has been done and is complete and was handled appropriately," Milley told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
Seperately, US officials told Reuters that Al-Baghdadi was given a burial at sea and afforded religious rites.
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"While clearing the objective, US forces discovered Al-Baghdadi hiding in a tunnel. The assault forces closed in on Al-Baghdadi and ended when he detonated a suicide vest," said Milley.
The extremist's remains were then transported to a secure facility to confirm his identity with forensic DNA testing, Milley said.
"The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately," he added.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was also buried at sea after he was killed by US forces in a similar helicopter raid in Pakistan in 2011.
During the Al-Baghdadi raid, two men were taken captive by US forces during the raid Milley said.
"They're in our custody and they're in a secure facility," Milley added, although he declined to provide more detail on the identity of the captives or how they were connected to Al-Baghdadi.
The US special forces weekend night time raid in northern Syria also killed a significant number of his fighters.
Milley also could not confirm the president's description of Al-Baghdadi as "whimpering and crying" in his final moments.
The officer told reporters he didn't know who Trump's source was for the claim but suspected he had talked "directly to the unit members."
Milley confirmed however some video imagery of the operation would be publicly released after it goes through a declassification process.
While Al-Baghdadi's death has deprived Daesh of its "inspirational leader," the security situation in Syria "remains complex," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the briefing.
He added that US troops were in position to retain control of key oil fields in northeast Syria.
American forces will remain positioned in the strategic area to deny Daesh "access to those vital resources," and "overwhelming military force" will be used against any group that threatens their safety, Esper added.
Al-Baghdadi's death will not rid the world of terrorism or end Syria's ongoing conflict, but it sends "a message to those who would question America's resolve," he said.
"The United States, more than any other nation in the world, possesses the power, and the will, to hunt to the ends of the Earth those who wish to bring harm upon the American people."