The Pentagon on Wednesday released dramatic video from the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and shared new details about the strike — and the mission’s hero dog.
“The mission was a difficult, complex and precise raid that was executed with the highest level of professionalism and in the finest tradition of the U.S. military,” Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters. “The operation was exquisitely planned and executed.”
The mission was given the green light around 9 a.m. ET Saturday, McKenzie said.
When U.S. forces, including armed helicopters, drones and jets, approached the compound, they took fire from two separate groups who were not believed to be affiliated with ISIS.
He showed aerial video of a helicopter airstrike on one of those groups, which appeared to include about 10 people. “What you see in the video is the actual response,” McKenzie said.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
As the assault force swarmed the compound, they were able to clear a number of “non-combatants” from the scene, including 11 children.
But “five ISIS members inside the compound presented a threat to the force,” McKenzie said. The four women and one man were wearing suicide vests and approached in a “threatening manner,” the general said.
They “did not respond to commands in Arabic to surrender” or to warning shots and were killed, McKenzie said.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
Meanwhile, al-Baghdadi fled into a tunnel with two children, although officials initially thought there were three.
“When capture was imminent he killed himself and (the) two young children,” who were believed to be under 12 years old, McKenzie said.
One of al-Baghdadi’s pursuers was a military dog whose name is classified but whose picture was released by the president on Monday.
While the dog was believed to be injured when al-Baghdadi set off his suicide vest, McKenzie said he’d been hurt by exposed live electrical cables in the tunnel.
McKenzie said the dog, who sources have told NBC News is Belgian Malinois, has been returned to duty. He’s a four-year veteran who’s been on approximately 50 combat missions.
McKenzie was also asked about President Donald Trump’s assertions that al-Baghdadi was crying before he killed himself. He said he couldn’t confirm that account “one way or another,” but I can tell you this: He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground. You can deduce what kind of person he is based on that activity.”