A daring US special operations raid in eastern Syria in May that killed an ISIS commander has yielded a treasure trove of documents that, among terabytes of organizational data, provides key insights into how the group’s leader avoids US airstrikes, The New York Times reports.
During the course of the raid, US forces acquired between four to seven terabytes of information related to how ISIS manages its fighters, its profits, and how the group handles the security of self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
US officials told the Times that Baghdadi chairs meetings with each of his appointed leaders, or emirs, throughout Syria and Iraq at a headquarters in the eastern portion of Raqqa, Syria, ISIS’s de facto capital.
During these meetings, security is a paramount concern for ISIS.
“To ensure his safety, specially entrusted drivers pick up each of the emirs and demand that they hand over their mobile phones and any other electronic devices to avoid inadvertently disclosing their location through tracking by American intelligence,” the Times writes the times, citing anonymous officials.
This concern over electronic surveillance extends past Baghdadi to how ISIS leaders as a whole operate and pass messages. The Times notes that wives of ISIS leaders help the organisation avoid detection by passing messages among each other and ultimately to their husbands to ensure that no interception has taken place.
In addition to the terabytes of information seized, US forces also managed to arrest the wife of slain militant leader Abu Sayyaf.
Baghdadi was reportedly hit by a US-led coalition airstrike in March. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov reported that the strike targeted multiple cars in northwestern Iraq on March 18 and Baghdadi was reportedly severely injured in the attack, suffering a spinal injury that left him incapable of leading the terrorist group.
However, the Pentagon has said that it had “no reason to believe it was Baghdadi” in the strike.
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