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Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Was Killed In A U.S. Military Raid Saturday In Northwestern Syria; Nancy Pelosi Now Demanding That President Trump Brief Congress After ISIS Leader's Death; One-Year Anniversary Of The Most Deadly Anti-Semitic Attack In U.S. History. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 14:00   ET





FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with breaking news. The leader of ISIS, one of the most feared terrorist organizations in the world, is dead. Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. military raid Saturday in northwestern Syrian. U.S. special forces in the cover of night, raiding his compound on the border -- close to the border with Turkey.

The White House releasing this photo showing inside the situation room during the raid. Al-Baghdadi's death is being described as a devastating blow to ISIS and it marks the ends of a years-long manhunt to find one of the world's wanted terror leaders.

This morning, President Trump went to explicit detail about al- Baghdadi's final moments.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He died after entering a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. Baghdadi was a sick and depraved man, and now he's gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying. This raid was impeccable and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people.

I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. And I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us.


WHITFIELD: We have a team of reporters around the world gathering details on this raid to kill Al-Baghdadi. Let's start with CNN Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you learning about this raid and how it was carried out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this raid was carried out by U.S. Special Forces, some of the most elite that are very skilled in these high value target missions, these counterterrorism missions. By all accounts it was upwards of 100 troops coming in by helicopter in the cover of night last night into this compound in northeastern Syria, an unusual location.

Not where you might expect to find Baghdadi. This was more of an Al- Qaeda stronghold, but they got information over the last several weeks, and the President indicated it was about in the last two weeks this they were really able to firm up their plan and decide to go ahead and do it.

Listen a little bit more to what Defense Secretary Mark Esper had to say about this.


MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The President approved a raid onto the target. The aim was to capture Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we couldn't cop tour capture him, the of course we would kill him. The report we have o the ground from the commander that we tried to call him out and asked him to surrender himself. He refused. He went down to a subterranean area. And on the process of trying to get him out, he detonated a suicide vest we believe and killed himself.


STARR: Do you know these elite Special Forces have been doing these kinds of very risky missions in so many countries over the last 18 years or so. Their real skill is surprise stealth. They come in very quietly, very unexpectedly. They have tremendous operational security. And they land and basically land on a target with overwhelming violent sudden force. That's how they stay alive with surprise and violence and that's how they get their targets -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Barbara, quickly, do you know anything more about what kind of evidence, what was retrieve from that sire that will assist in, you know, counterterrorism efforts?

STARR: Great question. According to officials, the troops were actually on the ground collecting intelligence for about two hours. That's a very long period of time. So it indicates they had some confidence they would not be met again with opposition forces.

Typically, they collect everything they can find, laptop, computers, electronic media, papers, anything that might -- cell phones to look for addresses and phone numbers, anything that would indicate who Baghdadi knew, who he met with, who he might have recently communicated with, what was his financial network, what network did he have of operatives that he could call upon to potentially plan and execute further attacks. It's likely to take some time to go through all of it and see exactly what they have, but that's the kind of information that they are looking for -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

So U.S. forces were able to track down al-Baghdadi after months of hunting on the ground in Syria.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh is in Iraq for us.

So Nick, President Trump credited Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, in that order, and then he said also said Syrian Kurds. So Nick, the Kurds say they have been gathering intel for months. How involve -- how vital were they in the success of this operation?


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you said, there was a passing reference by President Trump to the Syrian Kurds, yet they say, and they said quite early on as details came to light, that they were involved in a joint intelligence operation to bring this to light, later elaborating that it was actually five months of intelligence gathering that led to this operation today, as you point out too.

It's almost troubling as an ally to the United States in the fight against ISIS that it seems in Donald Trump's admission it led them to achieving this ultimate task, frankly, ultimate objective in the campaign while there are sort of offhand remark about their help from us after the authoritarian states of Russia, Turkey and Iraq were also thanked presumably for allowing air space they control for the U.S. forces to hit that particular target.

But it was a lengthy and sometimes overly revealing statement from President Trump where he referred to how he had been almost in awe of watching this happened around him. He said it was like watching a movie to some degree. And I think in word in terminology, at times sort of overly detailed, almost crude, about how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ran to his death in that end tunnel whimpering and screaming.

But the Syrian Kurds, their leader has gone on in just a last few minutes. Also, tweet again the suggestion that some of the intelligence perhaps Barbara was talking about being gathered in this raid may have already been put to use, unconfirmed here, suggesting that maybe one Baghdadi's key henchmen may well be targeted in the last past hours or so.

No confirmation of that, but this is part of the Syrian Kurds trying to emphasize their role as part of the U.S. operation here. And it puts Turkey's position in a very confusion light here. Because Turkey has called the Syrian Kurds terrorists. They have launched (INAUDIBLE) and pushed them back from their border which Trump kind of gave the green light to.

But it does appear that world's most wanted was living with a matter of mile. You count them on your hand to Turkish border, in an area where al-Qaeda are very strong, but also where some Turkish-backed moderates rebel groups operate there, too.

So a lot of questions to be ask about how Baghdadi came to be there, who was supporting him, who knew he was there, and what this means. The ort of geopolitics have been changing so fast over the past two or three weeks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

So during the President's statement, Trump gave several critical details about the raid in Syria.

Let's turn now to Jeremy Diamond live at the White House.

So Jeremy, President Trump essentially giving a play-by-play, you know, of the operation.

JEREMEY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He certainly did, Fredricka. President Trump gathered yesterday in the situation room shortly after 5:00 p.m. to oversee this raid that was designed to kill or capture Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

We know that the flight time that it took the troops was about an hour and ten minutes. We know that eight helicopters were involved. We know that it took weeks of surveillance to actually get to that point and also the U.S. had prior knowledge of some tunnels that were happening at the compound.

All of this because the President of the United States told us so. That has raised some concerns, of course, from former national security officials who feels that the President may have perhaps disclosed too much. But it did certainly go to the President's desire to really explain to the American public exactly what went on here. And he did describe things in quite explicit and sometimes vivid detail in the same way that he said that watching this raid from the situation room was like watching a movie. The President also sought to describe the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.


TRUMP: He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it in addition. But test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.


DIAMOND: And, Fredricka, the President also described Baghdadi as whimpering and crying. It was part of something that appears to be a trend from the President, back in 2016 during the campaign. He would offer lament the fact that terrorist leaders were sometimes referred to as masterminds when they planned some of these attacks. And the President instead said that they should be referred to as losers. That was certainly something the President was trying to do today. Another thing that he was trying to do, Fredricka, was trying -- kind

of put this in a broader framework. He repeatedly described capturing Baghdadi or killing him as a top national security priority for his administration. Touted the fact that this was something that the U.S. they had been trying to take care of for years. Clearly, the President was trying to frame this as one of the legacy defining moments of his legacy -- Fredricka.


WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much there from the White House.

So with al-Baghdadi dead, what does this mean for ISIS? Does this severely cripple the organization, or will another person just simply step in to fill the void?

Plus, Democratic leaders kept in the dark on the raid and now demanding a briefing on how this all went down. In fact, some of them found out the world's most wanted terrorist was dead on television, like you and the rest of the world.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back with this breaking news today. One of the world's most wanted terrorists now dead. This morning President Trump confirming that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed after detonating a suicide vest during a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria. Baghdadi's death is a combination of years-long hunts after he declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

CNN Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman is live for us in Beirut.

So Ben, explain the significance here. Why is al Baghdadi's death really such a big deal? The President said, you know, this is bigger than Osama bin Laden, according to the President.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The difference between Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr Baghdadi is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ran a country, essentially what was a country, the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. It was the size of great Britain and ruled over as many as 12 million people. That state was created very quickly.

This was a man who really knew how to run a terrorist organization and turn it into, albeit, a very briefly lived terrorist state. And for him to be eliminated, certainly it does represent an important milestone in the fight against ISIS.

However, even the Pentagon's inspector general in August came out with a report that said that between Syria and Iraq, there are between 14,000 and 18,000 ISIS fighters still on the loose. Isis still operates through affiliates in west Africa, in Libya, in Egypt Sinai peninsula, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines. It has sleeper cells in Europe that have carried out a variety of mass murders, terrorist attacks.

So yes, it's an important milestone, but no one is under the impression certainly in this part of the world that ISIS is history. ISIS is diminished, but its still there and it's still a very dangerous terrorist organization -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And then what about for the region? I mean, for that individual, al-Baghdadi, what kind of influence did he have on the region, and with his death, what kind of impact does that have?

WEDEMAN: It's important for me to explain why it's so noisy behind me. There is a revolution going on in Lebanon. There is unrest in Iraq. There has been unrest in Egypt. There has been a revolution in Sudan. There has been a revolution in Algeria.

The region currently is boiling. Lebanon is teetering on the brink of economic collapse. And it is in these situations that groups like ISIS can take advantage of the chaos of the power vacuum that is created. And keep in mind here in this part of the world, there is a template that police states authoritarian regimes have always used.

They have crushed the political center. They have terrified the opposition into silence. They have jailed opposition leaders. They have driven others into exile and they have created this dichotomy where the populist either goes with the regime, as distasteful as it may be, or they have the other option is the terrorists.

And therefore, that dichotomy still exists in the Middle East, and groups like ISIS, they may change their name, but will be able to exploit the vacuum that is created between authoritarian regimes and the terrorist extremists -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. Really appreciate that.

All right. So with the leader of ISIS gone, what is next for ISIS? Does al-Baghdadi's death essentially cut the head off the snake or will someone else simply step in and pick up where he left off?



WHITFIELD: All right. We are back with more on today's breaking news on the death of one of the world's most wanted terrorists. Today President Trump announced that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid of U.S. forces in northwest Syria overnight.

With me now, Nic Robertson, CNN senior international diplomatic editor and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. She is adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "Ashley's war." Good to see both of you. Gayle, let me begin with you. You have written extensively about the

carnage, the violence carried out by ISIS. Ben Wedeman talked about al-Baghdadi's reach and influence over essentially taking over our country. So does his death significantly cripple ISIS of the ideology or influence, even?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: It is both really a symbolic and strategic victory but it does not mark a definitive finish to the fight against the Islamic state. Talk to folks and everyone will acknowledge it is much easier to kill a terrorist than it is to sleigh an ideology and the idea of what the Islamic state represented. The fact that people on the ground and troops to northern Syria really talked to you about it as a state. Even though this is a non-state actor, I think it tells you to hold on the imagination these Islamic state really had for so many who live under its incredibly brutal rule.

WHITFIELD: Nic, President Trump also talked about, you know, eliminating the so-called caliphate al-Baghdadi created, vow to continue to go after ISIS and other terrorists. This is what he said. Listen.


TRUMP: Al Baghdadi has been on the run for many years long before I took office. But at my direction, as commander-in-chief of the United States, we obliterated his caliphate 100 percent in march of this year. Today's events are another reminder that we will continue to pursue the remaining ISIS terrorists to their brutal end. That also goes for other terrorist organizations.


WHITFIELD: So, Nic, how does the President's decision to pull out U.S. troops out of Syria impact this goal to eliminate the remaining ISIS terrorists?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It perhaps removes the ability of some U.S. assets. And one would assume these would be more covert assets to move freely moves in certain parts of the region, and that's limiting because this operation was clearly led by intelligence. The President said there were signals intelligence that was then followed up with, you know, with on-the-ground verification, if you will. That can be done with partners.

But oftentimes the most -- the best way and the most effective way to get a lot out of partners in the battlefield is to be there closely with them so that they feel that you have got skin in the game, that you are in the fight with them, albeit you can bring fearsome fire power and incredible technology, but they also have to have people who put their necks on the line, if you will, to get that close-up intelligence. And it can potentially be their offense.

(INAUDIBLE), the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed back in 23006,2007, I believe it was Jordanian intelligence that helped lead to his killing. And it was interesting the President helped pay tribute to that Jordanian fighter pilot who was so brutally killed on camera by ISIS.

So how to be effective and get the best out of partners in the region is to be a stable partner who is close to them. So by pulling out forces, that does create some instability there. This area of Idlib and Syria is undoubtedly going into a lot of turmoil in the near future because it is in the crosshairs of both Russia and the Assad regime in Damascus.

And so there are probably going to be more opportunities created as the situation there becomes more chaotic, as terrorists use communications they perhaps might not otherwise use. There will be more opportunities created and forces on the ground can react more quickly if they are closer to them.


WHITFIELD: And then, Gayle, you know, the Kurdish ma militia known as the SDS, you know, says it played a significant role in this operation, this mission, by providing intel that helped lead the U.S. military to Baghdadi. But when you listened to the President earlier and he, you know, thanked a number of countries, it was Russia that was first, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, and almost on the side also the Syrian Kurds. So what do you make f that? Does that add salt to the wounds, you know, the Kurds have been feeling rather betrayed by the U.S. pullout of northern Syria?

LEMMON: I think right now, I have talked to the head of the U.S.- backed forces, right? The SDF was part of a partner source that the U.S. fought for the last half-decade with. And this really is a momentous victory that was five years in the making with this partner force that started in 2014 in the town of Kobani when ISIS really had never had a single battlefield defeat. It was steaming across the region and really just absolutely taking town after town.

So I think this is a partnership. And one thing that isn't often captured is there is deep friendship between U.S. forces and the Syrian Democratic forces, between the Kurdish leader Muslim and U.S. officials. And so, I think there is a sense that let's see what is possible going forward.

Muslim held a press conference today in the town of Hasika (ph) in northern Syria. And he was talking about, look, we did this. This operation was a huge success. And it was a huge success for a lot of people, including ziti women, who the President also mentioned, who were enslaved by ISIS and who we helped to free, you know, along this road for the Americans. So I think for the SDF says this is not unending. And they re also very hopeful that this is not unending. And everyone is waiting to see what the U.S. presence now in the eastern part of the northern area of Syria will made for them.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And just to underscore what you said with Muslim, you know, tweeting out, you know, for five months that there had been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring until we achieve a joint operation to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Thanks to everyone who participated in this great mission. Of course, you know, also tweeting this out to the President. So Nic, the President thinking Russia, and Russia now is saying, you

know, it wasn't aware of any U.S. military operations in the region, but then didn't we hear from the President who said, you know, there was some indicator given to Russia, and Russia was like, OK, that's great? So what's going on here?

ROBERTSON: There can be a number of several things, but this is quite typical of Russia. It takes away some of the shine for President Trump when they do this. They say, well, you know, we weren't aware of this sort of lodged military operation going on, and by the way, we have heard several claims and counterclaims of who was involved, and we don't think all this adds up. It's quite typical of Russia. And particularly of their general information campaigns that tend to take what is quite a clear narrative and throw up a few other counter ideas and generally cloud the picture.

Now, you could say that's trying to take the shine off what President Trump has done. You could say that's typical of the way that they roll out their own propaganda, they are cynical. But also don't forget that, you know, Russia here is a key partner of Bashar al- Assad, by saying, yes they take and gave the United States a greenlight to fly in a heavily armed mission into Syrian and to Syrian territory. Potentially that would not be best for the relationship between Putin and Assad. But, you know, Putin wears the trousers in that relationship. So I'm not sure why they would worry particularly on that, to be perfectly honest.


WHITFIELD: Interesting.

All right, Nic Robertson, Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, one of the most powerful Democrats in the country says he found out on television. Why the President says he left key congressional leaders in the dark, next.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now demanding that President Trump brief Congress after ISIS leader al- Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. military raid late last night.

In a statement Pelosi criticized Trump for alerting Russia about the raid but not top U.S. congressional leadership. She goes on to say that, quoting now, "our military allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington," end quote.

As for Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, this is how he says he found out about the raid.


[14:35:28] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I saw it on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your reaction?

SCHUMER: My reaction? Look, it's great that we've gotten al-Baghdadi and killed him. He is a dangerous man, an evil man. The fight against ISIS has to continue.


WHITFIELD: Trump says he kept Pelosi and other members of Congress out of the loop on purpose. In fact, he even suggested that telling Pelosi would have posed a national security threat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you inform speaker Pelosi ahead of time?

TRUMP: No, I didn't. I didn't do that. I wanted to make sure this was kept secret. I didn't want to have men lost, and women. I didn't want to have people lost.


WHITFIELD: He said by doing so, it may have meant that there were leaks. And he went on to explain a little further his justification for not informing Congress.

So I'm joined now by Tulose Olorunnipa, White House reporter for "the Washington Post" and Molly Ball, Time national political correspondent. Good to see you both.

All right. So Toluse, does the President, you know, not trust the House Speaker with sensitive information or is it, you know, as you said he is just worried about the leaks by sign posting, telling any member of Congress about this operation?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It did seem like the President was focus on the fact that this has to be a secret operation and it had to be kept close to the vest. It will be very interesting to see over the next 24 hours if the President did inform some members. We did see him golfing yesterday with Lindsey Graham and other Republican senators. So if the President made a partisan decision in which he informed Republicans but did not inform Democratic leaders, that could become pretty controversial.

But we have seen in the past at least some previous presidents decide not to inform Congress before a surprise attempt, whether it's a rescue attempt or an attempt for foreign policy reasons or national security reasons. And that's always been a struggle between the executive branch and the legislative branch about the war powers resolution and what Congress is entitled to in terms of being noticed in advance.

But the President decided. He made this decision and he is going to get some pushback from Democrats who say, listen, we have been part of the gang of 8 for years and we have not spilled secrets. We know how to keep national security secrets.

That's part of the reason why this gang of eight was created so that intelligence information, classified information can be shared with Congress before these types of events. So we will have to wait and see about whether or not the President did spill this information to some members of Congress and not others or whether he was being only focused on keeping this secret and not allowing anyone outside of his national security circle to know about this.

WHITFIELD: So Molly, listen to how House intelligence chairman that he and, you know, the leadership, the gang of eight, had not been notified by the President.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The reason to notify the gang of eight is frankly more important when things go wrong. If, you know, the President said it was dangerous flying in. The Russians could have shot down American planes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the gang of eight was told about the bin Laden raid.

SCHIFF: I wasn't part of the gang of eight at the time, but that's my understanding. But had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight with the Russians, it's to the administration's advantage to be able to say we informed Congress we were going in. They were aware of the risks. We at least gave them the chance to provide feedback. That wasn't done here. I think that was a mistake.


WHITFIELD: So Molly, what kind of notice, you know, does the President owe Congress on a covert mission like this? Yes, the gang of eight notified of Osama bin Laden, but does the President have that kind of leeway, where, in the condition of a covert operation like this, he doesn't need to notify them?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Yes. It's my understanding that actually in the case of the bin Laden raid, if there was any advance notice it was very vague and sort of generic. That Congress certainly wasn't looped. They weren't there in the situation room or consulting on the decision to go forward.

So I think it does make a lot of sense to keep actions like this secret and closely held within, you know, a small group of military leaders. I think the question, as Tulose said, is whether this was a gratuitous partisan swipe and then whether the congressional leaders are gong to be briefed afterwards. As speaker Pelosi called for, the leaders and Congress do need to get this information from the administration afterwards.

This is not, as far as I know, a matter of legal requirement. It's just, as chairman Schiff was saying, it can be a wise thing for an administration to do, to consult with the Congress on decisions like this, and then after the fact that debrief Congress. They do have a right to that information.


WHITFIELD: And then Toluse, the flip side, is we heard the President this morning who was boasting about having a conversation with Russia before this got underway. Listen to how he described it.


TRUMP: Russia treated us great. They opened up. We had to fly over certain Russia areas, Russia-held areas. Russia was great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you tell them?

TRUMP: We told them we're coming in. And they said, thank you for telling us. They were very good. They were very cooperative. They really were good. And we did say it would be a mission that they would like, too, because you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do.


WHITFIELD: So Toluse, Russia got the heads up but members of Congress did not?

OLORUNNIPA That's what it looks like. There is bipartisan discomfort with the President's continued fawning over Russia. It goes back to the time of his campaign and through the early years of his presidency. There is always been discomfort with how cozy the President is with Russia, how many positive things he says about Russia, and Vladimir Putin. Even siding with Vladimir Putin last year over the U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia election meddling. So there is some discomfort there that Congress was not looped in and Russia was.

I don't know how many Republicans will say that publicly, but it will be part of the narrative as Democrats try to get more information about what happens and also the fact that Democrats, at least according to Chuck Schumer, were not told of this before the press. That they learned about it on television. Even in situations in the past where, you know, Congress is not necessarily given a heads-up before these things happen, usually the are told quickly afterward before the President makes remarks to the public, and that courtesy was not given in this case.

WHITFIELD: Right. It really wasn't made clear in that press briefing when a colleague from another network did ask if, you know, Republicans were informed on the hill but Democrats were not, and that answer was, you know, still lacking some clarity.

All right, Toluse Olorunnipa, Molly Ball, thank you so much.

BALL: Thank you. WHITFIELD: All right. More on our breaking news. But first, here's

this week's "Staying Well."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me, how are you feeling right now?


BARBARA ROTHBAUM, DIRECTOR, EMORY HEALTHCARE VETERANS PROGRAM: VRE is Virtual Reality Exposure. We are helping people confront what they are scared of. And with veterans with PTSD, we will recreate what they describe as their traumatic event. Studies have shown now for decades that VRE is effective at helping people with their anxieties and phobias.

ZACK SCHNEIDER, PROGRAMMER, VIRTUALLY BETTER: As equipment becomes more available, this type of treatment is becoming much, much more widespread. And we have created a software to help address several different phobias. So we have fear of public speaking, fear of storms, fear of spiders and fear of heights. And the good thing about VR exposure is if all of this becomes too much, your anxiety level gets too high, the patient can just take the headset off and then they can address the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to feel the plane shake, and you also might hear some other passengers being upset. OK? We are going to do this a few times. Every single simulation in this program is a potential trigger for our patient's anxiety. And we'll gradually and systemically expose them to that until we learn that it is, in fact, safe.




WHITFIELD: All right. More on our breaking news now. President Trump announcing it is death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in remarks at the White House today after Baghdadi killed himself in a raid with U.S. forces in northwest Syria. The President also thanking other countries and militias for their help.


TRUMP: I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. And I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us. This was a very, very dangerous mission. Thank you as well to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Sam Kiley is live for us on the Turkish-Syrian border. So, Sam, what do we know about the role Turkey played here?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Turkish version, Fred, is that they knew about the presence or location of Baghdadi 48 hours before the attack and that they were informed as it went in or before it went in to de-conflate.

Now, the United States has thanked Turkey for its role saying it had indeed with the Russians even the Syrians who have air access aircraft in that air space the United States forces had to fly through.

There is a pretty small role really for Turkey. Interesting that Donald Trump singled out the Syrian Kurds, as he put them, these Syrian democratic forces which were, of course, so much part of the battle to defeat ISIS in terms of the landscape, and have also been claiming credit, as have the Iraqis, for the intelligence that led to this capture and kill.

But the interesting thing about this, Fred, too is the location where it occurred is not in the area where ISIS had any historic support, but rather in an area dominated by their bitter rivals, Al Qaeda. Isis had split from Al-Qaeda. The area around Idlib is infested with large number of Al Qaeda fighters. And there are a huge number of refugees present, too. There are this IDP ([h) camp all around the location where this operation was conducted. It is a highly complex environment.

As Donald Trump hinted in his speech, there was a concern, perhaps, that Baghdadi was trying to use his substantial amounts of finances available to him to maybe rebuild, somehow reconstitute the so-called Islamic state, perhaps using the sort of groups around him, other jihadis of a similar ideological ill -- Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right. Sam Kiley, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, on the one-year anniversary of the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, the members of the tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh remember those they lost.



WHITFIELD: It has been a year since police say a man shot and killed 11 Jewish worshippers at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. The suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, recently offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but federal prosecutors said no and are seeking the death penalty. The anti-defamation league just released a report showing that 780 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the first half of 2019.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Pittsburgh for us. What's happening?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, good afternoon. I think there is a consensus of the community that they want to remember that day not as one of the community's worst but the moment when this community in general stood up against hate.

And so what we have been seeing the last several days here leading up to today is a joint message -- a message of healing, a message of resilience as we have seen many people stop by the building as you see behind me. It continues to be fenced off. Since that day here, but it certainly hasn't stopped people from coming here to pay their respects and honor the memories of those 11 people who were gunned down 12 months ago today.

In a very powerful moment that I witnessed a short while ago, you saw members of the Pittsburgh Islamic center come here with fresh flowers, fresh messages, even a single jar of honey, Fred, that is meant to symbolize the friendship that both communities considered themselves neighbors and really goes to the kinship here.

But it is more than just a day of tribute. It is a day of service. There are multiple community services events that are happening in and around the community here in Pittsburgh. But also a day of action. You mentioned the anti-defamation league. We spoke various members of that organization, that anti-hate organization who said this should also be a moment to pause, not just to remember those 11 lives but also remember that there is that lasting threat not just for members of the Jewish community but other across the country as well.



JAMES PASCH, AOL REGIONAL DIRECTOR: It's important to recognize that when we talk about the change that needs to occur that a year ago to today, we have seen the same rates of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide. So these threats and this continued growth of white supremacy is real. And we really do have to link arms and work together to lower the amount of hate and the incidents that we are seeing.


SANDOVAL: Now the idea of not here with just that message but also continuing with their support of the Jewish community. The rest of the members of Pittsburgh who were caught in the middle of this pain from 12 months ago, those tributes they will continue tonight. There is a community service event at site that is scheduled in the coming hours.

It is just one of these many these positive events we have seen in it is last year as Jeffrey Meyers, the rabbi here of the Tree of Life, said one individual continues to sprout positive acts, Fred. And I think that that is really the main message that is radiating from this Pittsburg community. It has been doing it since that horrible day. And the community here promises to continue spreading the message in the future as well.

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much in Pittsburg. We will be right back.