Gen. Kenneth McKenzie also could not confirm President Donald Trump’s
graphic description of Baghdadi whimpering and crying as he died.
“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 it is based on that activity,” he told
a news conference at the Pentagon.
“That would be my empirical
observation of what he did. I’m not able to confirm anything else about his
last seconds. I just can’t confirm that one way or another.”
He said four women – who were wearing suicide vests – and one man were
killed at the compound.
Gen McKenzie said an unknown number of fighters also died after opening fire
on US helicopters.
He added: “I want to make it
clear that despite the high-pressure and high-profile nature of this assault
that every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and to protect children
we suspected would be in the compound.”
He confirmed that Baghdadi had been identified through his DNA – adding that
samples had been on file since the ISIS leader’s detention in an Iraqi prison
Gen McKenzie said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains were flown back to a staging base for identification and were then buried at sea within 24 hours of his death “in accordance with the laws of armed conflict”.
The Pentagon has said that US bombers have flown close to North Korea’s east coast to demonstrate the military options available to defeat any threat.
It said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st Century.
Tensions have risen recently over North Korea’s nuclear program.
At the UN, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said President Donald Trump was on a “suicide mission”.
Ri Yong-ho’s comments to the General Assembly mimicked President Trump’s remarks at the UN on September 20, when he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man on a suicide mission”.
The North Korean foreign minister added that “insults” by President Trump – who was, he said, “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” – were an “irreversible mistake making it inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland.
President Trump, the foreign minister said, would “pay dearly” for his speech, in which he also said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies.
Donald Trump responded to the speech on Twitter by saying Ri Yong-ho and Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer” if they continue their rhetoric.
Shortly before his address, the Pentagon announced that the show of force underscored “the seriousness” with which the US took North Korea’s “reckless” behavior, calling the country’s weapons program a “grave threat”.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, escorted by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace, the Pentagon added.
The flight follows a week of heated rhetoric between the leaders of both countries – after President Trump’s comments, Kim Jong-un called him “mentally deranged” and “a dotard”.
Ri Yong-ho did not comment on the Pentagon’s announcement.
North Korea has refused to stop its missile and nuclear tests, despite successive rounds of UN sanctions. The North Korean leaders say nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.
After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.
However, speaking at the UN, Ri Yong-ho repeated that the restrictions would not make the country stop its nuclear development.
Meanwhile, a 3.4-magnitude tremor was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site on September 23, but experts believe it was a natural earthquake.
The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 0km in North Hamgyong province, home to the Punggye-ri site, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) also said it occurred in the nuclear test area, but added that its seismologists assessed it as having a depth of 5km.
South Korea said no specific sound waves generated by artificial earthquakes were detected.
China’s Earthquake Administration said the quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor. The agency had initially said it was a “suspected explosion”.
The US will increase its military presence in Eastern Europe in response to an “aggressive Russia”, the Pentagon has announced.
From 2017, three fully manned US combat brigades will be deployed.
In February, the Pentagon announced plans to quadruple its budget for European defense in 2017.
The additional presence will increase US ability to conduct military exercises in the region.
The plan demonstrates “our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere”, said Gen. Philip Breedlove, the senior US commander in Europe.
“Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries,” Gen. Philip Breedlove added.
Each brigade will rotate through the region for nine months before being replaced.
There are about 4,500 soldiers in a brigade, bringing with them military vehicles and other equipment.
“There will be a division’s worth of stuff to fight if something happens,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work told the Wall Street Journal.
Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014.
The intervention sparked fears that Russia was considering other incursions into neighboring countries.
Russia has accused NATO of using the situation in Ukraine as an excuse to move closer to Russian borders.
“Stories are being spread that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltic states, into Sofia or into Budapest. No-one intends to do that,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Some analysts suggested the US military could be planning for the post-Obama era.
Senior ISIS commander Omar Shishani died from injuries sustained in a recent US air strike in north-eastern Syria, the Pentagon has confirmed.
Earlier reports had suggested Omar Shishani, a Georgian whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, may have survived the attack on a convoy.
Several of his bodyguards were killed in the same bombing.
The strike took place on March 4 near the north-eastern town of Shaddadi, where Omar Shishani had reportedly been sent to bolster local ISIS forces.
On March 13, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ISIS leader had been “clinically dead” for several days.
In 2015, the US offered a $5 million reward for Omar Shishani.
It said he had held numerous senior military positions within the group, including “minister of war”.
Last week, the observatory’s director, Rami Abdul Rahman, quoted sources saying that Shishani had been badly wounded and had been taken to a hospital in Raqqa province where he was treated by “a jihadist doctor of European origin”.
US officials have said they believe Omar Shishani was sent to the Shaddadi area to reinforce ISIS militants following a series of military defeats.
Shaddadi was captured last month by the Syrian Arab Coalition, an alliance of Arab rebel groups which joined forces with the Kurdish YPG militia to battle ISIS.
The Pentagon has warned that Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric undermines US national security by boosting ISIS.
Donald Trump has said Muslims should be banned from entering the US, in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino attacks.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said such talk “bolsters ISIL’s narrative”, referring to ISIS.
There has been a global outcry since Donald Trump made his remarks.
Secretary of State John Kerry joined the onslaught of condemnation on December 8 when he said they were “not constructive” in the fight against ISIS.
The ISIS militants are the target of a US-led bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq.
Donald Trump announced his plan days after an attack in California raised US fears about homegrown terrorism.
A Muslim couple, believed to have been radicalized, opened fire and killed 14 people at a social center in San Bernardino, California.
One of the two perpetrators, Tashfeen Malik, reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on the day of the tragedy.
Responding to Donald Trump’s remarks, the Pentagon said a border closed to Muslims would harm American efforts to counter extremist ideology.
Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Peter Cook said: “Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security.”
The Pentagon’s view echoed a tweet from Hillary Clinton that said Donald Trump’s proposed ban is “not only counter to our values – it plays right into the hands of terrorists”.
The outcry was swift as soon as Donald Trump said in a statement on December 7 that Muslims nursed a “hatred” towards America and should be banned “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
The Republican presidential hopeful and reality TV star later said it would not apply to people living in the US.
Donald Trump defended the idea on December 8, comparing it to policies implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War Two against Japanese, German and Italian people in the US.
Muslim leaders, the UN and foreign leaders have criticized the call as dangerous and divisive, while the White House said Donald Trump should be disqualified from the race.
Attempting to explain his comments, Donald Trump said parts of London were “so radicalized the police are afraid for their lives”.
Responding to the billionaire’s comments, London Mayor Boris Johnson said that was “ridiculous” and added: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
UK PM David Cameron said Donald Trump’s comments were “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.
Republican leaders were strong in their condemnation. House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”
Benghazi attack suspect Ali Awni al-Harzi has been killed in an US airstrike in Iraq, the Pentagon says.
Ali Awni al-Harzi died on June 15 in the city of Mosul, which is controlled by ISIS, the Pentagon adds.
He was designated as a terrorist by the US Treasury and state department.
The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was among four Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks in September 2012.
US officials blamed the attack on militants linked to al-Qaeda.
The Pentagon described Ali Awni al-Harzi as “a person of interest” in the attack on the US compound.
It said he was an organizational intermediary who operated closely with extremists linked to ISIS or ISIL throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
“His death degrades ISIL’s ability to integrate North African jihadists into the Syrian and Iraqi fight and removes a jihadist with long ties to international terrorism,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.
Fifty one labs in 17 states and three foreign countries have been mailed samples of live anthrax, Pentagon officials have said on June 3.
The announcement doubled the number of incidents in the US. A smaller number of shipments were revealed last week.
Staff members at some of the labs have been treated for anthrax exposure as a precaution, but no-one has fallen ill.
The Pentagon has maintained there is no risk to the general public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading the investigation into the incidents.
Photo Getty Images
According to defense official Robert Work, the number of affected laboratories is expected to rise.
Experts in biosafety have heavily criticized the lapse and called for improved precautions.
Symptoms of anthrax exposure include skin ulcers, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can cause death if untreated.
The military has ordered all of its labs that have previously received inactive anthrax samples to test them. In addition it is advising all labs to cease working with these samples until told otherwise.
Pentagon officials say there was no sign the live samples were sent due to any deliberate action.
The samples were mailed from a Utah army facility by commercial post to laboratories over the past 10 years.
In addition to the US labs, samples were sent to facilities in Australia, Canada and South Korea.
The US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts have been suspended after being hacked by a group claiming to back Islamic State.
One message on Centcom’s Twitter feed said: “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back.”
It was signed by ISIS, another name for the Islamic State. Some internal military documents also appeared on the Centcom Twitter feed.
Centcom said it viewed the breach as “cyber-vandalism” and not serious.
In a statement, the military command said there was no operational impact and no classified information was posted.
“We are viewing this purely as a case of cyber-vandalism,” it said.
The hack happened as President Barack Obama was giving a speech on cyber-security.
Reflecting on major breaches like a recent hack of Sony Pictures, President Barack Obama said in his speech the US had been reminded of “enormous vulnerabilities for us as a nation and for our economy”.
Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said the US is looking into the Centcom hacking.
He said they were investigating the extent of the incident, and that there was a significant difference between a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.
An unnamed Pentagon official told Reuters the hacking was an embarrassment but did not appear to be a security threat.
Four Afghan inmates have been released from the Guantanamo Bay prison and sent back to their home country, the Pentagon announces.
Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir were repatriated after a thorough review of their cases.
Eight Afghans are believed to be among the 132 detainees remaining at the US prison in Cuba.
President Barack Obama has pledged to close the facility, opened in 2002 to hold “enemy combatants” in what the US termed its war on terror.
“As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force,” a Pentagon statement said on December 20.
The four Afghans were flown to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul aboard a US military plane and handed over to the local authorities, a US official was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
The Pentagon provided no further details.
The repatriation is the latest in a series of transfers from the Guantanamo Bay, as President Barack Obama seeks to eventually shut the facility.
Earlier this month, six prisoners were flown to Uruguay, which said they would enjoy complete freedom in the South American nation.
About half of the remaining detainees at the Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for transfer – but have nowhere to go because their countries of origin are unstable or unsafe.
The Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba was opened in 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks in the US.
President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State (ISIS).
Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.
The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighboring Iraq.
On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.
Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS.
They have repeatedly called on Bashar al-Assad to step down since the beginning of the three-and-a-half year uprising against his rule, in which more than 191,000 people are believed to have been killed.
On Monday evening, US officials said Barack Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.
One official later told the Associated Press that they had already begun.
President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State
The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.
The president cited the threat to US diplomats and military personnel and the humanitarian crisis in the north, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes since June as IS fighters and allied Sunni rebels have taken control of dozens of cities, towns and villages.
Barack Obama has long resisted taking military action in Syria, but Pentagon officials are said to have advised him that the only way the threat from IS can be fully eliminated is to go after the group there.
A spokesman for General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon was “preparing options to address Isis both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including air strikes”.
The options reportedly include targeting IS leaders in and around their stronghold of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, as well as in the east near the Iraqi border.
Last week, IS published a video showing it killing the American journalist James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. The group threatened to kill other US citizens it was holding in retaliation for US air strikes.
It later emerged that US special forces had attempted to rescue the hostages earlier in July, but that they were not at the location in Syria where the military thought they were being held.
One Obama administration official told the New York Times that the US did not intend to collaborate with the Assad government or inform him in advance of any operation.
“It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.
“Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging [IS].”
On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said his government was “ready for co-operation and co-ordination at the regional and international level to fight terrorism”.
However, Walid Muallem warned the White House that it would view any unilateral military action as a breach of sovereignty and an “act of aggression”.
The Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, which is fighting IS across northern Syria, meanwhile said its commanders on the ground were ready to co-ordinate with the US.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two.
An entire class of Air Force attack jets was tipped to be axed under the plans, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.
Chuck Hagel is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel.
The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.
The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.
Referring to budget pressures, Chuck Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: “The reality of reduced resources and a changing strategic environment requires us to prioritize and make difficult choices.”
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two
Noting there are currently about 520,000 active-duty US Army members, Chuck Hagel will also say according to prepared remarks: “Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy.”
The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since before the US entered World War Two in 1940, when 267,000 active-duty members were employed.
By the end of that conflict, 8.2 million active-duty US Army members were employed.
The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.
The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chuck Hagel will also recommend reducing housing allowances and other benefits, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.
However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.
The plan is said to take into account government cutbacks as well as President Barack Obama’s pledge to end land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under the proposed cuts, the military would still be able to defeat any adversary, unnamed officials told that newspaper, but be too small to engage in protracted foreign occupations.
The Pentagon has decided to move an advanced missile system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precaution following threats by North Korea.
The US Department of Defence said it would deploy the ballistic Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) in the coming weeks.
Pyongyang has threatened to target South Korea and the US in recent weeks.
The Pentagon has decided to move an advanced missile system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precaution following threats by North Korea
The North Korean warlike rhetoric follows new UN sanctions and joint military drills by the US and South Korea.
The Thaad system includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, and AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, together with an integrated fire control system.
The Pentagon said in a statement the missile system would be moved to Guam as a “precautionary move to strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat”.
“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend US territory, our allies, and our national interests,” the statement added.
In recent weeks, North Korea has mentioned military bases in the US territory of Guam and the US state of Hawaii as possible targets.
“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks, present a real and clear danger,” said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first major speech on Wednesday since taking up his post.
Chuck Hagel added that Pyongyang had also threatened the interests of South Korea and Japan.
The Pentagon has decided to resume flights on its F-35 fighter jets, after the whole fleet was grounded last week.
A cracked turbine blade found on a plane prompted the suspension. But tests showed that this was a “unique” problem and not a design flaw, engine maker Pratt and Whitney said.
Thousands of F-35s are due to be made for the US and its foreign partners.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons programme, with a cost of nearly $400 billion.
The fault was detected during a routine inspection of an air force version of the jet (F-35A) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
But on Thursday a spokesman for Pratt and Whitney, Matthew Bates, told Reuters news agency: “The team has determined that root cause is sufficiently understood for the F-35 to safely resume flights.”
Extensive tests on the plane’s engine revealed the crack was a result of the “unique operating environment” of the test flight, and was not a widespread issue, he added.
The engine had been running at high temperatures for four times longer than a normal F-35 flight, causing a separation of the “grain boundary” on one blade, Matthew Bates explained.
The Pentagon later confirmed that all its 51 planes had been cleared to resume flights.
The Pentagon has decided to resume flights on its F-35 fighter jets, after the whole fleet was grounded last week
Last week’s order to ground the planes – in the US air force, army and Marine Corps – marked the second time in two months planes from the F-35 range have been grounded.
The Marine Corps variant (F-35B), a short take-off and vertical landing variant (STOVL), was grounded for nearly a month after a manufacturing defect caused a fuel line to detach just before a training flight in January.
The F-35 programme includes partners from nine countries.
The construction of the plane has been plagued by problems – it is seven years behind schedule and has required numerous re-designs because of delays in software delivery and bulkhead cracks.
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