28 October, 2019 08:15

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, October 28, 2019 which is Statue of Liberty Dedication Day, National Chocolate Day, International Animation Day and Wild Foods Day.

This Weekend/Today in History:

· Oct. 27, 1957: “Responsible citizenship” is the theme for a year-long observance to honor what would have been the 100th birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, born Oct. 27, 1858. A National Executive Committee resolution urges all departments and posts to plan and execute appropriate programs and ceremonies to honor the 26th president and his belief in a well-prepared, properly educated citizenry that is willing to voluntarily serve in whatever capacity is needed.

· Oct. 28, 2008: The Indianapolis International Airport is renamed to honor Col. H. Weir Cook, a World War I flying ace who served many years on The American Legion’s national Aeronautics Committee alongside his 94th Aero Squadron friend, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker. Cook, who helped create the U.S. Army Air Mail Service and was a transcontinental mail carrier, returned to service in World War II, where he crashed into a mountain and died while searching for an enemy bombing target. The Indianapolis Municipal Airport had been named in Cook’s memory until it became an international airport in 1976. A major reconstruction of the airport, finished in 2008, presented the opportunity for Cook’s return as namesake.

This Day in History:

· On October 28, 1965, construction is completed on the Gateway Arch, a spectacular 630-foot-high parabola of stainless steel marking the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Missouri.

· 1919: Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Prohibition Amendment.


· WaPo: With Baghdadi in their sights, U.S. troops launched a ‘dangerous and daring nighttime raid’

· Military.com: The VA Is Processing More Appeals, Decisions Thanks to New System

· Military Times: Iraq veterans are suing pharma companies for allegedly supporting Shia militias

· Defense News: Congress mulls spring continuing resolution to avoid government shutdown

· Stripes: Slain Islamic State leader leaves a legacy of terror

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WaPo: With Baghdadi in their sights, U.S. troops launched a ‘dangerous and daring nighttime raid’

How the Baghdadi raid unfolded, according to Trump

In President Trump’s Oct. 27 remarks, he described an operation involving "helicopters…ships and planes," and said he watched it from the Situation Room. (Video: Sarah Parnass/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


Dan Lamothe and

Ellen Nakashima

Oct. 27, 2019 at 8:35 p.m. EDT

As President Trump and senior advisers settled into the Situation Room on Saturday evening, elite U.S. forces more than 6,000 miles away launched one of the most significant counterterrorism operations in the campaign against the Islamic State.

Taking off in eight helicopters from Iraq, the troops flew over hostile territory for hundreds of miles in the early Sunday morning darkness.

Their target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the brutal founder and leader of the Islamic State, was holed up in a compound in northwestern Syria with family members and terrorist associates, and the United States had been watching him for days.

And it was a tip from a disaffected Islamic State militant that set the operation in motion, according to a U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.

What followed was what Trump called a “dangerous and daring nighttime raid” that was carried off “in grand style.” It ended, he said, with Baghdadi fleeing from advancing U.S. forces into a dead-end tunnel and detonating a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children.

“He didn’t die a hero. He died a coward,” the president said. “Crying, whimpering, screaming and bringing kids with him to die. Certain death.”

Other U.S. officials declined to describe Baghdadi’s state in his last moments.

The disaffected ISIS member had become an informant for Kurdish forces working with the Americans, the official said. And he provided critical information on Baghdadi’s whereabouts.

The informant emerged in early summer, and over time U.S. officials became more confident in his credibility and reliability, the official said. Within the past couple of weeks, it became clear that, when put together with other information, the tip about Baghdadi’s location was solid, the official said.

“It was a montage of a lot of pieces of intelligence that came together with a specific asset that was helpful,” the official said.

How the operation — named after Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was abducted and raped repeatedly by Baghdadi before she was killed, according to U.S. officials — came together is still something of a mystery. The troops included some Delta Force members, according to two U.S. officials, but other details, such as how they communicated with more senior commanders in Washington and beyond, and what weapons were involved, remain unknown.

But in colorful and at times taunting language, Trump revealed details Sunday morning of an operation that marks one of the major victories in the five-year U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State.

The president, speaking at the White House, said he “got to watch” much of the raid beginning about 5 p.m. in Washington. He credited undisclosed technology for giving him “absolutely perfect” visuals that were “as though you were watching a movie.”

Trump, who returned to the White House from golfing at about 4 p.m., entered the Situation Room about an hour later, he said. Seated at a table in a navy suit and blue tie, he was flanked in a photo released by the White House by Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, White House national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Flying after midnight in the Middle East, the helicopters needed to cross airspace controlled by Iraq, Turkey and Russia, and U.S. officials informed them they had an operation planned without providing details. With the Russians in Syria, the Pentagon has called such communication “deconfliction” and said it has prevented accidents and mistaken intent by adversary forces.

When they arrived, they tried to call Baghdadi out to see if he would surrender, Esper said. A couple of adults and 11 children came out, a U.S. official with knowledge of the operation said.

Baghdadi remained inside, as U.S. officials assumed he might. U.S. forces responded by blowing holes in the side of the compound in an effort to avoid any booby-trapped doors, Trump said. Baghdadi retreated into a tunnel, and then detonated his vest.

Five enemy fighters were killed in the operation in the compound, and others were killed outside, the White House said in a statement. O’Brien, speaking in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said U.S. troops confirmed Baghdadi was dead at 7:15 p.m. in Washington.

“The commander of the mission called and said, ‘100 percent confidence, jackpot. . . . Got him. One hundred percent confidence jackpot, over,’ ” O’Brien said.

Despite Baghdadi’s vest detonating, U.S. troops were able to recognize him, the official said. A ground commander reported to Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command, that they were “absolutely convinced” it was the Islamic State leader. McKenzie in turn relayed that message to the White House. The results of the DNA test were complete Sunday morning, the official said.

Milley was “emphatic” that the military had to dispose of Baghdadi’s remains in accordance with Muslim traditions, which typically require burial within 24 hours, the official said. When Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, his body was buried at sea after traditional Islamic rites were performed. It was not clear Sunday whether that occurred in this case.

The remains of at least two wives were left behind. Trump said they had not detonated their vests and were still wearing them, making it too risky for U.S. troops to dispose of the bodies.

Trump said that one U.S. working dog — described by the president as “beautiful” and “talented” — was wounded after chasing Baghdadi into the tunnel. Trump said that no U.S. troops were injured, but Esper said separately that two service members suffered minor injuries.

“They’ve already been returned to duty,” Esper said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Fewer than 100 U.S. troops were on the ground in the raid, with more involved in a supporting role. Several kinds of aircraft were used in the operation, including CH-47 helicopters, the secretary added. They came under fire early in the mission from “locals in the area,” and the Americans returned fire in self-defense, he said.

Videos circulating on social media Sunday from Barisha appear to depict helicopters flying at low altitudes in the dark, heavy gunfire and occasional explosions. Images taken after daybreak show the home where Baghdadi lived reduced to rubble. Esper said it was deliberately destroyed.

Trump and other U.S. officials credited Syrian Kurdish forces — whose alliance in the battle against the militants the president has recently played down as he withdraws forces from Syria — with providing useful information. Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a tweet that they had been gathering information about Baghdadi for five months, while Trump said the operation itself started two weeks ago once the United States had him “scoped.”

“We thought he would be in a certain location,” the president said. “He was. Things started checking out very well.”

But it wasn’t clear how long Baghdadi would stay in Barisha, a small village west of Aleppo.

Pence, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said the United States received information about Baghdadi’s most recent location early in the week.

“Through a combination of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, we believe we knew where he would be, and by Thursday afternoon were informed that there was a high probability he would be at the compound in Idlib province,” Pence said.

The president directed the military to develop options, and they were presented Friday, Pence said. “Actionable intelligence” obtained Saturday allowed the raid to go forward, he added.

“It was incredible to be in the Situation Room and to see this unfold in real time as our Special Forces were on the ground, to see their professionalism over a period of two hours,” he said. “America and the world are safer today with the leader of ISIS dead.”

Military.com: The VA Is Processing More Appeals, Decisions Thanks to New System

26 Oct 2019

Military.com | By Dorothy Mills-Gregg

The results are in: The Board of Veterans’ Appeals processed 11% more decisions and held 38% more hearings in fiscal 2019 than 2018 thanks, in part, to a new congressionally-mandated appeals structure, officials reported this month.

That new process, combined with hiring more staff, helped the board process nearly 95,100 rating appeals, of which 35% were granted and 30% denied, BVA Chairman Cheryl Mason said.

"The entire department is mostly focused on changing what we do," Mason said. "This is really about changing for the veterans and providing the services that the veterans and their families need and that’s what the board is committed to."

Two years ago, Congress passed a modernization act to have the board develop three options for reviewing decisions, better notifying veterans about outcomes, and improving claim resolution time.

VBA is tasked with reviewing veterans’ appeals for the three administrations under the Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration and National Cemetery Administration.

Before the new three-track plan went into effect in February, it took an average of seven years to resolve a single appeal — three to make it to the board in the first place and at least three more as the BVA considered it, Mason said.

The three claim tracks included in the new system focus on review levels. One option lets veterans introduce new evidence in their case and have a regional specialist review it through the "supplemental claim lane." A higher-level review will let their case be reviewed by a more senior official. A third option allows them to send the appeal to BVA using a system similar to the one previously used for all claims.

"That’s what it’s about: choices for veterans so they don’t get stuck for three or seven years," Mason said.

Mason said they don’t yet know the average processing time since it hasn’t been a full year since the new appeals options were introduced.

The processed claims don’t include movement on "legacy" appeals, or those filed before the new track system, which still need to be processed, Mason said. She estimated over the next year, BVA will tackle 60,000 veterans with "legacy" appeals requesting a hearing in addition to 12,000 veterans asking for a hearing under the new system.

"There’s a little bit of an inventory there," Mason said, "but that’s why we’re excited about the virtual hearings and the opportunity it provides to us."

While staff are working to create "telehearings," BVA officials have taken over the hearing scheduling and reorganized the decision letter to be easier to understand.

Meanwhile, Mason said she’s increased the office size by about 400 people since she took office in December 2017, giving her 96 judges and about 800 attorneys to review appeals and make decisions.

Moving forward, she said the BVA will leverage its ability to hire more military spouses to increase staff size.

"That’s part of our commitment to changing the process, improving the process, hiring the right people, and just hiring veterans and their families," Mason said, "because all of those groups bring a perspective that we need to have."

Military Times: Iraq veterans are suing pharma companies for allegedly supporting Shia militias

By: Meghann Myers   2 days ago


Almost 200 veterans and families of troops killed in action have signed on to a lawsuit accusing five major pharmaceutical and medical supply companies of doing business with terrorist groups that targeted U.S. service members in the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2017 and due for another look by a judge later this month, alleges that the companies made deals with the Iraqi Health Ministry with full knowledge that it was affiliated with a Shia militia group fronted by notorious extremist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, that attacked Americans, resulting in severe injuries and death.

“Some U.S. government personnel in Iraq called Jaysh al-Mahdi ‘The Pill Army,’ because Sadr and his Jaysh al-Mahdi commanders were notorious for paying their terrorist fighters in diverted pharmaceuticals, rather than cash,” the complaint alleges.

The defendants include AstraZeneca, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Roche Holding. The complainants, who are seeking “economic and non-economic damages,” are represented by Sparacino PLLC, a Washington-based law firm.

“As alleged by hundreds of American families, the defendants’ payments aided and abetted terrorism in Iraq by directly financing an Iran-backed, Hezbollah-trained militia that killed or injured thousands of Americans," Ryan Sparacino told Military Times on Thursday.

The firm filed the complaint under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which criminalizes financial dealings with terrorist organizations.

“The terrorist-finance mechanism was straightforward: the terrorists openly controlled the Iraqi ministry in charge of importing medical goods, and Defendants – all of which are large Western medical-supply companies – obtained lucrative contracts from that ministry by making corrupt payments to the terrorists who ran it,” according to the complaint.

All five defendants have filed multiple motions to dismiss the lawsuit, on the grounds that they couldn’t have known that “more than 300 armed attacks,” according to the complaint, allegedly resulted from their contracting with the Iraqi Health Ministry.

“Defendants recognize the sacrifices and dedication of those who served, and understand the desire to hold the perpetrators of that violence responsible,” according to a defense motion filed in April. “But this lawsuit attempts to do something different: It takes hundreds of injuries and losses of life inflicted by a sectarian militia in that armed conflict and seeks to impose civil liability on pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies that had nothing to do with the attacks.”

The case is due before a federal judge in D.C. on Oct. 30, according to the court docket.

Included in the complaint are the stories of the 186 veterans or Gold Star families who allege the death or injuries suffered while deployed to Iraq were directly funded by the companies.

One is retired Staff Sgt. Brian Beaumont, a 1st Infantry Division soldier who was deployed to Sadr City in 2007. An IED attack left him with a 100-percent disability rating, according to the lawsuit, as well as “extreme physical and emotional pain and suffering.”

Another is the Neiberger family, the parents, sister and brother of fallen Spc. Christopher Neiberger, a 22-year-old 1st Infantry Division machine gunner who was killed in a roadside bomb attack near Baghdad in August 2007.

“As a result of the August 6, 2007 attack, and SPC Neiberger’s death, the Neiberger Family has experienced severe mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, and the loss of SPC Neiberger’s society, companionship, and counsel,” according to the complaint.

Defense News: Congress mulls spring continuing resolution to avoid government shutdown

By: Joe Gould   2 days ago


WASHINGTON ― With impeachment proceedings looming and budget talks stalling, Congress will likely need a stopgap spending measure for February or March, the Senate’s top appropriator said Thursday.

A continuing resolution, or CR, would avoid a government shutdown when the last funding patch expires Nov. 21, just before Congress takes its Thanksgiving recess.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said that if the House passes a resolution to impeach President Donald Trump, it will indefinitely dominate the the Senate’s business, forestalling budget talks.

“It takes a lot of oxygen out of the air, and some business is transacted, but it will slow everything down,” Shelby told reporters, adding that a continuing resolution could be needed into February or March.

The Senate this week voted to advance the a package of fiscal 2020 domestic spending bills passed by the House, which would include nearly one-third of all nondefense discretionary spending. The Senate is set to resume consideration of the package on Monday.

That package excludes Department of Defense appropriations, which has been snagged in a fight over border wall funding. Democrats are likely to withhold support for defense spending until a larger spending deal is reached.

The package does include measures for the Appropriations subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

The Senate has not yet passed any spending bills, while the House has passed 10 of 12 spending bills, including its defense appropriations bill.

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon would be unable to begin 79 new-start programs or realize 39 planned production increases under the rules of a continuing resolution.

“I have 100 percent certainty that the United States is going to be tested in the weeks to come,” Thornberry said. “And yet, we have less than a month of funding for our military. Right now, I think the most important thing we can do is for Congress to put aside the squabbling and fund the military for the rest of the year.”

Separately, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., announced Thursday he would offer a “skinny” version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act this week as a backup plan, in case talks with congressional Democrats and the White House to reconcile the main bills become deadlocked.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Thursday the president’s diversion of military construction funding to the U.S.-Mexico border wall is the sticking point in those talks, too. Passing an abbreviated bill would be “equivalent to failure.”

“Any bill that does not restrict wall funding would be challenging to bring to the House floor,” Smith said in a statement. “It is equivalent to failure ― not just for the men and women in uniform who are counting on us to pass the NDAA, but also to the national defense of our country."

Stripes: Slain Islamic State leader leaves a legacy of terror

By ADAM SCHRECK AND ZEINA KARAM | Associated Press | Published: October 27, 2019

BEIRUT — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sought to establish a new Islamic “caliphate” across Syria and Iraq, but he might be remembered more as the ruthlessly calculating militant leader of Islamic State who brought terror to the heart of Europe and set up a short-lived organization so extreme that it was shunned even by al-Qaida.

With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi steered his chillingly violent, but surprisingly disciplined, followers into new territory by capitalizing on feelings of Sunni supremacy and disenfranchisement at a time of tumult that followed the Arab Spring.

One of the few senior ISIS commanders still at large after two years of steady battlefield losses, al-Baghdadi died Saturday when he detonated his suicide vest in a tunnel while being pursued by U.S. forces north of Idlib, Syria, killing himself and three of his children, President Donald Trump announced Sunday. He was believed to be 48.

“He didn’t die a hero, he died a coward, crying whimpering and screaming,” Trump said at the White House, adding that the U.S. had al-Baghdadi under surveillance for weeks.

Militants under his command were some of the first jihadis to grow up with the internet, and they deftly exploited social media to tout their military successes, document their mass slaughter, beheadings and stonings, and promote their cause to a global audience.

ISIS suffered steady battlefield losses that saw its territory shrink from an area the size of Britain to a speck in the Euphrates River valley. The announcement of his death came nearly two years after Iraq announced the defeat of ISIS and five years after the group humiliated its armed forces and seized nearly a third of the country.

In April, U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces in Syria declared the group’s territorial defeat after liberating the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria, its last bastion.

Though at minimum a symbolic victory for Western counterterrorism efforts, his death would have unknown practical impact on possible future attacks. He largely had been regarded as a symbolic figurehead of the global terror network, and was described as “irrelevant for a long time” by a coalition spokesman in 2017.

It is not clear who would replace al-Baghdadi — the group has lost many of its senior commanders in U.S.-led airstrikes, including Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, said by U.S. officials to be the group’s No. 2 leader. Al-Hayali was killed in an August 2015 airstrike by the U.S. in Iraq. Another top figure was Abu Ali al-Anbari, the extremist group’s leading finance official, who was killed in 2016.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the ISIS spokesman and one of the group’s best known commanders, also was said to have been killed in 2016 by a Russian airstrike.

Al-Baghdadi was born as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai sometime in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, according to a U.N. sanctions list. His hometown later would be the site of a 2006 bombing by Sunni militants on a revered Shiite shrine — an attack that sparked a wave of sectarian violence that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Details of his early days are murky. Most rely on a brief biography posted to online jihadi forums in July 2014 that traced his lineage to the Prophet Muhammad’s Quraysh tribe. Its claims, which cannot be confirmed independently, describe al-Baghdadi as coming from a religious family and earning a doctorate from Saddam University for Islamic Studies, the Iraqi capital’s main center at the time for Sunni clerical scholarship. It says he promoted the Salafi jihadi movement in Samarra and the nearby Diyala province. Salafi jihadis advocate “holy war” to bring about a strict, uncompromising version of Islamic law, or Shariah.

According to ISIS-affiliated websites, al-Baghdadi was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and was sent to Bucca prison in February 2004 for his anti-U.S. militant activities, although he was considered a civilian detainee and his jailers were unaware of his jihadi role. He was released 10 months later, after which he joined the al-Qaida branch in Iraq of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Al-Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in an airstrike north of Baghdad in 2006 and al-Baghdadi became a trusted aide of its two most senior figures, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Al-Baghdadi assumed control of the group, known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq.

The group he inherited, al-Qaida’s official franchise in Iraq, already had been weakened by years of U.S. and Iraqi raids and the mobilization of large numbers of Sunni fighters opposed to its extremist ideology. But al-Baghdadi was playing the long game.

Deploying suicide attackers, roadside explosives, car bombs and Kalashnikov-toting gunmen, he increased the tempo of assaults against Iraqi government forces and Shiite civilians as the American military drew down its forces ahead of their December 2011 withdrawal. Prison breaks, including a military-style assault on two Baghdad-area jails in July 2013 that freed more than 500 inmates, bolstered his group’s ranks.

The chaos of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in Syria provided an opportunity to expand his influence. Al-Baghdadi dispatched comrades to create a like-minded Sunni extremist group known as the Nusra Front, which more moderate Sunni rebels initially welcomed.

Over time, more of his fighters and possibly al-Baghdadi, himself, relocated to Syria, pursuing their plans to restore a medieval Islamic state, or caliphate, spanning both Iraq and greater Syria, also known as the Levant. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced what amounted to a hostile takeover of the Nusra Front, saying he was merging it into a new group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The move caught both the Nusra Front and al-Qaida’s central command off guard.

Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani refused to accept the takeover. Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s top leader, tried to end the squabbling and ordered al-Baghdadi’s group to be abolished.

Al-Baghdadi, however, would not compromise, and al-Qaida eventually had enough. In February, it formally distanced itself from al-Baghdadi, saying it had no connection with his group and “is not responsible for its actions.”

But al-Baghdadi’s organization was well on its way to achieving the proto-state it coveted, taking control of key cities such as Raqqa, Syria, and Fallujah in Iraq.

Then came the offensive that would draw the U.S. back into Iraq. In June 2014, al-Baghdadi’s militants and allied Sunni fighters seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and other Sunni-dominated communities in the north and west of the country. Government troops in many areas put up little resistance, abandoning their posts and leaving behind valuable American-made materiel. Al-Baghdadi’s fighters posted propaganda videos of its forces gunning down captured Shiite troops en masse.

By month’s end, the group announced its own state governed by Islamic law. Al-Baghdadi became the declared “caliph” of the newly renamed Islamic State group, and Muslims worldwide were urged to pledge allegiance to him.

On June 29, 2014, the group released a video showing a man purporting to be al-Baghdadi giving a sermon at a Mosul mosque.

“It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you,” he said. “I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

President Barack Obama launched airstrikes against ISIS beginning Aug. 8. He acted after thousands of Iraqi Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, were targeted by al-Baghdadi’s fighters and in order to safeguard U.S. interests, including a consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

ISIS militants responded by beheading Western captives, beginning with freelance American journalist James Foley, and posting their deeds in gruesome online videos.

The U.S. and Arab allies eventually expanded the military campaign to target ISIS fighters with airstrikes in Syria too, helping U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters battle the group.

Under pressure in both countries, the group turned outward, claiming responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris in which 130 people died, and the March 22 attacks in Brussels that left 32 people dead.

Iraqi officials said al-Baghdadi was wounded in an airstrike on Nov. 8, 2014, in the town of Qaim, near the Syrian border in Iraq’s western Anbar province. Days later, an online audio message purportedly from al-Baghdadi urged his followers to “explode the volcanoes of jihad everywhere.”

Little is known about al-Baghdadi’s family. An ex-wife, Saja al-Dulaimi, and her daughter from al-Baghdadi, were detained in Lebanon in 2014. She was released a year later as part of a swap with al-Qaida in exchange for kidnapped Lebanese soldiers and police. In July 2018, ISIS said al-Baghdadi’s son, Huthaifa al-Badri, was killed fighting government forces in central Syria.

On April 30, he appeared in a video for the first time in five years, acknowledging defeat in the group’s last stronghold in Syria but vowing a “long battle” ahead. He appeared with a bushy, gray-and-red beard, wearing a black robe with a beige vest and seated on the floor with what appears to be an AK-74 rifle propped up next to him.

The man said to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the video also claimed the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people were “part of the revenge” against the West.

“Our battle today is a war of attrition to harm the enemy, and they should know that jihad will continue until doomsday,” al-Baghdadi said.



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