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ISIS Leader Believed To Have Been Killed In U.S. Raid; Former Trump Chief Of Staff Warned Him Of Impeachment; Charges Brought In 39 Deaths In Essex. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

Well, after five years in hiding, it is now believed that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a U.S. military raid. This breaking news happened overnight in Idlib province near the Turkish border. Syrian activists took video reportedly of that raid. CNN cannot confirm its authenticity. Here it is.


ALLEN (voice-over): A U.S. Defense official said al-Baghdadi apparently detonated a suicide vest as U.S. Special Forces moved in. DNA will confirm whether it's Baghdadi. We are also told CIA intelligence eventually tracked the cleric to Syria. Late Saturday President Trump tweeted, "Something very big has just happened."


Mr. Trump is expected to make a major announcement Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, five hours from now. Coming up this hour, we will look at the intelligence behind the raid and how it took place in a surprising area.

We'll also look at how his death, if confirmed, impacts the fight against terror and the remaining influence of ISIS and whether his death, if confirmed, may be used as propaganda by his followers. CNN Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh has more on al-Baghdadi.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His face in public only once and even then in the presence of a small number. This is the moment at Friday prayers in a freshly conquered Mosul Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, creator of one of the most successful and inhuman terrorist networks in history chose to reveal himself. Yet, before the infamy at this pulpit, he spent a decade rising

quietly. A PhD student said to like football, these Pentagon records show, his capture by U.S. forces in 2004 near Fallujah, his hometown and held for years as a civilian internee at U.S. Camp Bucca. It was there, one expert who knew him, that he turned.

HISHAM HASHIMI, ISIS EXPERT (through translator): Al-Baghdadi was not cruel or radical at the time, he just wanted to fight the Americans. However, he leaned toward sectarian violence in Bucca at a school, where he met foreigners and some Iraqis who filled his head with such ideas.

WALSH (voice-over): The officer in charge of the camp remembers the last words of the man they released.

KENNETH KING, FORMER COMMANDER, CAMP BUCCA: As he was leaving -- and he knew my unit was from Long Island, New York -- he looked over toward us and as he left, he said, "See you guys in New York."

Here we are a few years hence and I look at those words in a little bit of a different context right now.

WALSH (voice-over): Then there is silence, a long stretch in the shadows of Iraq's savage civil war before hitting the Al Qaeda sanctions list in June 2011. Here as Abu Du'a, he led the Islamic State of Iraq, the Al Qaeda franchise in Iraq, whose previous leader, Zarqawi, the U.S. killed.

But as the U.S. left Iraq and the Arab Spring fell apart, the increasingly sectarian violence of Syria's civil war became a magnet for the bloodthirsty. Baghdadi, silently behind an ISIS brutality so extreme even Al Qaeda disowned it, leading the extremist groups to split in February of 2014 and months later, the group, to show its fighters breaking the borders of Syria and Iraq, declaring their caliphate.

With Baghdadi at its helm, claiming direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad, the new caliph. This was Baghdadi's moment, the pinnacle of years of calculation and ISIS rose fast.

Then came the attack on and occupation of Mosul. The atrocities against the Yazidis in Mt. Sinjar, the beheadings of Western hostages, the besieging of Kobani, horrors marked by an obscene worship of violence.

WALSH: In all these, Baghdadi is invisible, yet doubtless the key decision-maker.


WALSH: But one of the more terrifying things about the ISIS he helped create is not its obsession with gruesomely videoing acts of murder but, instead, its harnessing of social media to create a global franchise amongst people it had often never met -- in Libya, Afghanistan, Paris, Brussels, atrocities committed by people who were attracted to ISIS' brand to commit atrocities and even die for it. WALSH (voice-over): But in November 2014, rumors of an airstrike

hitting him and then, within a week, a recording of his florid speech.


WALSH (voice-over): It became a pattern: no public appearances mixed with randomly released audio statements. U.S. officials told CNN that they believe he was injured in May 2017 and had to take five months away from his leadership duties as a result.

Yet from that moment onwards, what was left of ISIS' so-called caliphate collapsed in on itself. Mosul, freed from their grip in July, Raqqa that October.

ISIS reduced to a tiny slip of land on the Iraqi and Syrian border and an idea, infectious, hateful, still capable of inspiring barbaric insanity, yet now without its figurehead, a man willing to lead his followers to death but only from the shadows.


ALLEN: Right now we want to go to Ben Wedeman in Beirut following the developments and to talk about what this signifies that al-Baghdadi is very likely killed and how it may impact ISIS moving forward.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's significant because he was the leader of the so-called Islamic State. But unlike, for instance, Osama bin Laden, al-Baghdadi didn't really have a cult of personality until he actually made that public appearance at the very beginning of the so-called caliphate in July of 2014 at that mosque in Mosul.

He was an unknown entity for most people, not just in the broader Muslim world but in Iraq itself. Unlike Osama bin Laden, who came to fame during the 1980s when he led the regime against the soviet occupation against Afghanistan.

I covered the final battle against the so-called physical caliphate. We spoke with dozens of captured ISIS fighters and their wives and their children. And I can tell you just a handful actually even mentioned Baghdadi when we spoke to them. Their loyalty was to the Islamic State, not to the man who led it even though he had all the right credentials.

He had fought against the American occupation in Iraq. He was the descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He was not somebody who was visible, had a high public profile. That simply wasn't his style.

Therefore for him to disappear from the scene now that he has been killed doesn't mean ISIS will shrivel up and disappear. And carrying on in that thread of thought, currently there is a series of uprisings in the Arab world, in Iraq, here in Lebanon.

In Egypt you have had sporadic demonstrations for the first time in years. And I can tell you that the oppression, the repression, the dungeons will provide the troops for some future extremist organization.

So we are, with the death of al-Baghdadi, perhaps moving from one phase to another. But this phenomenon of extremist terrorist organizations is not about to come to an end now that al-Baghdadi has been, as we have been told, has been killed.

ALLEN: Somehow the reign of terror continues. Talk, too, Ben, about the fact that, after he announced the caliphate, many communities in Iraq were so desperate that they welcomed ISIS into their community without realizing the viciousness and the savagery of this organization.

We lost Ben's audio. We'll continue to follow this breaking news. The leader of ISIS believed to be killed.






ALLEN: Welcome back. We continue to follow major developments in the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Sources tell CNN the head of the terror group is believed to have died in a U.S. raid in Syria. He apparently detonated a suicide vest as the operation was carried out. Officials are awaiting a DNA analysis to confirm his death.

We have new footage of the air operation in Idlib province. Here it is. They believe this was part of the raid targeting al-Baghdadi. CNN cannot yet confirm its authenticity. Ultimately the raid took place in a surprising location with a look at what that signifies, I'm joined by Sam Kiley on the Turkish-Syrian border. Sam?


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, when this raid was conducted is not inside territory that would be a comfortable resting place for the so-called head of the Islamic State. It is nestled deeply in territory controlled by an Al Qaeda affiliate group, an organization that indeed was split from Islamic State, so-called, back in 2014 and fought very hard against it for some time.

So ideological and theological and battlefield enemies were all around al-Baghdadi. But they are united in their hatred of the West and the United States in particular.

This is an environment also, Natalie, that is densely populated with refugees from the Russian airstrikes and artillery bombardments that have so cursed the Syrian landscape for so many years, particularly from Aleppo and Homs.

Not a comfortable environment for al-Baghdadi to hide but the Kurdish dominated allies that have fought so long and hard and lost about 10,000 troops in the battle alongside the United States and other allies against the so-called Islamic State, they put out a note earlier one this morning, claiming that they had been helpful in the intelligence that led to this operation.

We've got no corroboration, of course, from the United States. This is not in an area where the SDF has any significant over presence at any raid. We have understood from eyewitnesses this was a village, 5 kilometers, 3 miles, inside the Syrian territory, very close indeed to the Turkish border.

An eyewitness told CNN from a nearby town that the raid, in his view, conducted over a period of about an hour, involved several helicopters. Obviously as we have seen that video, they were airstrikes on a tight location as we understand.

All of this would point to obviously a very highly planned operation. It may have been just a few days in the planning or several months. We simply don't know until we hear more from the United States.

But one that was conducted in an environment in the strategic sense, it was getting less and less benign for the U.S. by the day. Since the U.S. president announced the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in a band of territory along the border with Turkey, that precipitated Turkish incursion, undermining the potential for the United States to support this sort of operation with pre-existing troops on the ground.

So this really follows the pattern of many Special Forces raids, particularly by Tier 1 Delta or the SEAL teams, which would be conducted from an external location and very strictly focused on one environment.

Clearly they managed to get some troops on the ground because they said they will conduct DNA studies to establish whether or not ultimately al-Baghdadi was killed in this raid. We will hope to hear more from the United States later on today.

Donald Trump, of course, tweeting he's going to make some kind of announcement around 9:00 am, U.S. time, Natalie.

ALLEN: It is interesting this took place so close to Turkey.

Do we know anything about whether the United States informed Turkey at all?

Or does Turkey have anything to say at this point?

KILEY: Turkey has been very quiet. We may yet hear whether or not they were involved. They are, of course, a NATO partner. If they had intelligence that could have led to the killing or capture of a target such as al-Baghdadi, it would be incumbent upon them to have shared it.

We don't know where this operation was launched from. The two most obvious locations are here inside Syria, as are Turkey. They have a big U.S. airbase. Of course they have a lot of assets in northern Iraq, Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, which is where a lot of targets have been launched from.

It is interesting, inevitably speculated not only why was al-Baghdadi hiding there but why was he so close to Turkey?

Was he trying to smuggle himself or his family out to relative safety?

They would have to keep a low profile in Turkish territory. They fought the Assad regime and later joined the jihadist groups, which he headed the most vicious and violent the world has ever seen. -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes. Let's talk about the timing of this as well. President Trump said it's time for U.S. troops to move out.


ALLEN: Syria moved in. U.S. tanks going to protect oil fields. And all of a sudden this operation happens and they get Baghdadi.

KILEY: I think they should be seen as entire separate. This is really part of the global operations that American Special Forces, reinforced with drones and other aircraft, have be conducting around the world, targeting Al Qaeda, ISIS groups in Somalia, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, all over the world wherever a target of this nature would present itself. They have intelligence.

This was the most wanted man a top of their hit list for kill and capture. There are many other individuals around the world subjected to Special Operations focuses that are not part of the wider, more strategic forces, Green Berets working alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces. This was most likely a raid by Deltas or SEAL teams who are oftentimes those are kept from the rest of the military.

ALLEN: Sam, thank you.

I want to bring in Rodger Shanahan. He is a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

I will ask you what we have been talking about with Sam there. The fact that al-Baghdadi was in Idlib province hiding out in an area with Al Qaeda and civilians and very close to the Turkish border.

RODGER SHANAHAN, RESEARCH FELLOW, LOWY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Yes. This is a thing people will focus on the next few days. You would assume most people thought he was in western Iraq, where the Islamic State support network is in better shape than it is in Syria.

So why would you be in a place such as Idlib where you are vulnerable, surrounded by people who aren't your friends, many of whom are absolutely your enemies?

So the only rationale you would think is he wasn't planning on being there for a long time. Being that close to the border, it may as well have been a transit location with the view of entering Turkey in the not too distant future. But the U.S. was able to interdict him. It's not a place you would stay for a long time. ALLEN: I want to ask you about the fact that American forces are pulling out of Syria. Now the head of ISIS is very likely dead. And how this changes the landscape of Syria right now.

SHANAHAN: Well, I think the first element of that is you have to say the timing is extremely coincidental. This person they have been looking out for years was tracked down and appeared to be killed by U.S. forces, within a week or two of U.S. forces withdrawing in Syria and allowing Turkish forces to enter Syria.

So is there some kind of quid pro quo and this is the final element of it or is the timing entirely coincidental?

That is something we will think about the next few weeks, I'm sure. The other issue here is in some secondary way, this strengthens the arguments of Damascus and Moscow, bringing Idlib down to control.

Once you find the head of Islamic State being killed in that province, it strengthens the argument from Damascus and Moscow. It appears on the surface of it they will exploit their claim for military action to be eradicating the area of terrorists. So I think there is still quite a bit to be played out in terms of al-Baghdadi being found in Idlib province.

ALLEN: Let's talk about ISIS beyond Syria. They continue to operate in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, Sinai. But the threat very likely will continue because of this fact and how spread out it is and the fact that so many still support what ISIS stands for.


SHANAHAN: Sure. It's been desegregating for quite some time and like any terrorist organization under pressure, they would have had a succession plan in place that will now be enacted.

But this action has probably two elements to it. On the first hand, there is certainly an intelligence leakage quite obviously because their leader has been killed by the United States. That will give pause to Islamic State internally to try and determine how that information about his location got out.

On the other hand, Islamic State may well try to produce some kind of operational outcome to show they are still relevant and the death of al-Baghdadi hasn't stopped them.

Regardless of the death of al-Baghdadi, it's not the end of Islamic State by any stretch of the imagination. When people pledge loyalty to Islamic State, they do pledge loyalty to the leader, not the organization. At some stage they're going to have to make an announcement about who the new leader is.

Then we will see a raft of loyalty pledges to the new leader. It certainly weakened them but by no stretch of the imagination is this an end of the Islamic State.

ALLEN: Rodger Shanahan, thank you for your insights. We appreciate it.

SHANAHAN: My pleasure.

ALLEN: We'll continue with this breaking news, a U.S. military raid believed to have killed the leader of ISIS.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ALLEN: Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. If you are just joining us, we have been falling breaking news the past few hours that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in the Syrian northwest province of Idlib.

This nighttime video was taken by Syrian activists as a military operation got underway at the Turkish border. CNN cannot confirm this was the actually raid targeting al-Baghdadi.

A U.S. Defense official says he apparently detonated a suicide vest as U.S. Special Forces closed in. DNA analysis will confirm if in fact, it is him. The cleric has been in hiding five years. We are being told locating him was based on CIA intelligence.

President Trump is expected to make the announcement Sunday morning. He said it would be a major announcement at 9:00 am Eastern, just a few hours away. Earlier he tweeted, "Something very big has just happened."

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces just tweeted there was a successful joint operation with the U.S. They didn't specifically name what the operation was. Our Nick Paton Walsh joins us from Irbil, Iraq.

You are learning about how this operation was carried out, Nick?

WALSH: At this point the Syrian Kurds, who have been in an incredibly difficult position the last two weeks, their commander Mazloum Abdi just tweeted there was, quote, "a successful historic operation as a result of joint intelligence work with the United States."

Now given the hour, he is trying to assume a Kurdish role in this operation. If you are looking to gather the whereabouts of al- Baghdadi, there is no great source than the ISIS detainees held in Syrian Kurdish facilities.

I should point out at this point there is no indication that's where it came from. But if you are trying to join the dots here, it may be why Abdi is making the statement on Twitter. This also greatly complicates the geopolitics so to speak of what has

just happened. If the Syrian Kurds were, in fact, involved in successfully assisting this operation by U.S. Special Forces, in which they moved into a town, a village about five or so kilometers away from the Turkish border, then that is a group that Turkey has called worst terrorists than ISIS, assisting the United States in killing the leader of ISIS.

Now Turkey has begun an incursion into northern Syria, much against the desires of Pentagon official although seemingly with the green light of their commander in chief President Trump to kick the Syrian Kurds back. That operation is still ongoing. It has a very important deadline on Tuesday for withdrawal from the border.

Still at this point it seems that the Syrian Kurds are openly saying they were involved in a joint operation that was historic. It clearly must be a reference to this al-Baghdadi operation, which I should still say is not officially confirmed as resulting in the death of al- Baghdadi.

But that massively complicates matters geopolitically and is possibly also another feather in the cap of the United States' military, who have been persistently saying that the Syrian Kurds are their ally in the fight against ISIS.

They have found themselves having to beat a withdrawal from the side of the Syrian Kurds after Donald Trump's suggestion that Turkey could go ahead with its incursion but it may be that they're united possibly in performing this operation. We don't know the details but the Kurds are claiming to have been involved in joint assistance of a historic nature.

ALLEN: That would be fascinating to see the U.S. military once again reunited. They have great respect for the Kurds. Nick, thank you for your reporting.

We want to take a look at Baghdadi more closely, why he has mattered in the fight against terror and why this apparent killing matters, especially since we have been hearing how ISIS is supposedly finished. Ben Wedeman joins us from Beirut to talk about the significance of his death. Ben?

WEDEMAN: It certainly is significant. This is a man who is from 2014 until today, led what was known as the Islamic State.


WEDEMAN: He at one point ruled over a realm around the size of Great Britain with a population of as many as 12 million people. That was slowly shrunken down to a tiny little village in Eastern Syria called Baghouz. I was there when they were finally defeated.

But no one was under the illusion at the time that that was the end of ISIS. According to a report by the inspector general of the Pentagon published last August, they believe as many as 10,000 ISIS fighters were still on the loose between Iraq and Syria. ISIS or its affiliates are operating from West Africa, Libya, Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Philippines. They are still very much present.

What distinguished al-Baghdadi from, say, Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda Osama bin Laden was famous going back decades. In the 1980s, he was fighting in parallel with the United States, leading the so-called Arab Mujahidin.

When al-Baghdadi appeared in July 2014 in Mosul, he was largely unknown. And I'm not talking about through the Islamic world, in his native Iraq itself. And he was not somebody who would make frequent public appearances.

In fact, he only started to put out videos, audio or videos of himself after the fall of ISIS. So he always had a very low profile. Never really had a cult of personality. When we were interviewed ISIS fighters and their families earlier this year, no one really mentioned al-Baghdadi. Their loyalty was the Islamic State.

So he was clearly not the sort of leader who, once he disappears, the organization he leads will disappear with him. ISIS will remain.

ALLEN: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you for that perspective from Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you.

We are joined by security and terrorism expert Glenn Schoen in London via Skype.

Ben was just saying al-Baghdadi was a figurehead. He was no Osama bin Laden. But of course, as Ben was just saying, people that follow ISIS will continue to do so, even without him.

But what is the significance that finally Special Operations were able to catch up with him apparently?

GLENN SCHOEN, TERRORISM EXPERT: I think ultimately, of course, he's the only person who served as a figurehead here. So when we are looking at him as a human being, he was seen by his followers as having both a religious and a practical leadership dimensions, except he didn't come to the forefront that much.

He was a little bit of a ghost. He may have, to some extent, undersold himself. To some followers, he had a high and lofty, almost religious stature. To other people, he wasn't that present, meaning that the concept of the state that he built was almost stronger than his personality.

His loss will be a big blow to I.S. but it is not going to be the end of it. We see that in what's still left of its propaganda apparatus and still putting out data, undertaking some smaller actions and there's still a lot of banter back and forth on the Internet in different countries.

The loss of his person is unclear but it does mean they are losing clearly a rallying point. And intel analysts will be asking how much command and control did he have when we look at the military punching power and the terrorist power of I.S.

ALLEN: Let's talk about where he was found, by all accounts an unlikely place, Idlib province. And very close to Turkey.

SCHOEN: Yes. And obviously everybody at this moment has a lot of questions.

Did it mean somebody's special protection, did it mean one of the governments or some of the government players in the area, did they have a role in this?

Does it have meaning in it?


SCHOEN: On the other hand, we can't really say at the moment that it means anything in particular. Terrorists leaders who've been sought out, they have used different tricks to hide, sometimes right under the nose of authorities. Osama bin Laden was just down the road from a Pakistani military academy.

So just we just don't know the details of the larger puzzle here.

ALLEN: We are awaiting DNA analysis to confirm this was al-Baghdadi. If so, what is the symbolism, Glenn, of the fact that he reportedly blew himself up with a suicide vest instead of being killed by opposition forces?

How might that be used as propaganda by ISIS?

SCHOEN: It certainly could be. I mean, that's a very good point, Natalie. If he can show, hey, I died fighting, I went down, I took my own life versus the Americans got me, certainly that is a narrative they could start up in his favor in terms of building a legacy.

I fought to the end. I was the lion. I rose to the occasion and they didn't take me alive. On the other hand, he did take his own life. He had to. He was cornered. He was captured. He was killed. It shows once again it may take a long time, but the enemies in this case -- we'll call it the West. We will call it the United States.

But of course, the whole world has been united against I.S. And starting the murder of the journalist Foley there, the persecution of the Yazidis, this movement has been condemned worldwide. Simply the fact that he stood up and killed himself versus being killed, I don't know in the bigger span of history if it's going to mean all that much.

ALLEN: We appreciate your insights, Glenn Schoen from London.

SCHOEN: Thank you.

ALLEN: A U.S. military raid believed to have killed the leader of ISIS. We'll be right back.




ALLEN: The latest on the major development in the fight against ISIS. The leader of the terror group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is believed to have died in a raid in northwest Syria. We have new footage to show you from the region.


ALLEN (voice-over): This video purportedly shows an air operation in Idlib province circulated by Syrian activists. They believe it is part of the raid targeting al-Baghdadi. CNN cannot confirm its authenticity at this time.

Meantime the Kurdish-led Democratic forces, the SDF, said there was a successful operation thanks to joint intelligence with the United States. But right now it is unclear if they are referring to the al- Baghdadi raid.

Well, moments ago we received another video we are bringing you now. Iraqi state TV is reporting that these are the first pictures of the target of al-Baghdadi's headquarters. This according to one of their own intelligence experts. CNN has not yet been able to independently confirm this, either.

We want to bring you some other news we're following now. President Trump is disputing comments made by his former chief of staff at a political conference Saturday. CNN's Sarah Westwood tells us what was said and how the warning may have come true.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Amid the intensifying impeachment testimony, President Trump is lashing out at John Kelly, having harsh words for his former chief of staff after John Kelly said that during the search for his replacement, Kelly claims he informed the president not to pick a yes man, saying if he picked someone who validated all his decisions, then the president could get impeached.

Kelly also telling the "Washington Examiner," "It pains me to see what's going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of all over the place."

President Trump, the White House had an aggressive response to Kelly's comments. On-the-record statements from both the president and the press secretary were issued in response to Kelly's words.

President Trump saying, "John Kelly never said that. He never said anything like that. If he would have said that, I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else." Press secretary Stephanie Gresham said, "I worked with John Kelly and

he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president."

That's a remarkable statement from the press secretary, just savaging a widely respected former colleague, whose arrival of the White House, was celebrated at the time. That retired four-star general who served as the president's chief of staff for a year and a half.

But contrast the way that the White House had an immediate and coordinated response to Kelly's comments with the way they have responded to the impeachment inquiry, often meeting new allegations, new developments in the investigation with silence and declining to dispute the specifics.

In fact, Republican allies have even complained about the lack of messaging coordination and strategy coming out of this White House over the past few weeks. But see here, in the case of John Kelly's comments, the president perceiving personal insults, the White House had an immediate almost coordinated response and pushback to the former chief of staff -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: New developments now in the deaths of 39 people found in that container truck in Essex near London. British police have charged a man with 39 counts of manslaughter in connection with the case. The 25-year-old suspect from Northern Ireland was arrested Wednesday shortly after the bodies were discovered.

For more, here's CNN's Scott McLean in Belfast.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The driver of the truck in this case has now been formally charged by police in Essex. His name is Mo Robinson, he is a 25-year-old from about an hour southwest of Belfast.

He is facing 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering. Now the other thing police are trying to do without very much luck is actually identify the 39 victims in this case or even establish their national identity.


MCLEAN: So far they have only said they believe some of them were of Chinese origin and some were of Vietnamese origin. Now they are saying very little about that at all. The problem for police is these people came with very little, if any, identification on them.

So now they are having to identify them by marks, scars or tattoos that may be on their body. For that, they need the help of the public, people in the Chinese or Vietnamese community who may have known their loved one was coming to the U.K.

The trouble that they're having, though, is many of the people who may know them may be in this country illegally and are reluctant to come forward. So police are trying to make the case to the public that they are not interested in prosecuting people, only finding closure for their families -- Scott McLean, CNN, Belfast.


ALLEN: Next here, more of our breaking news. A U.S. military raid believed to have killed the leader of ISIS.





ALLEN: Explosions there from Idlib province, Syria. You are looking at video taken earlier by Syrian activists as a major military action got underway near the Turkish border. CNN cannot confirm this was actually the raid targeting al-Baghdadi.

But we are told the ISIS leader is now believed to be dead. Meanwhile, Iraqi state TV is reporting that these are the first pictures of the target at al-Baghdadi's headquarters. This according to one of their own intelligence experts. CNN has not yet been able to independently confirm this, either.

The U.S. and other countries have been hunting al-Baghdadi for five years. He was so elusive, years ago, he gave up cell phones. He only was given messages via paper. They have been looking for him ever since.

At this moment in this video he declared the ISIS caliphate from inside the Great Mosque of Mosul, Iraq. That's in 2014. CIA intelligence eventually led to a location in northwest Syria. A U.S. Defense official says al-Baghdadi apparently killed himself with a suicide vest as U.S. commandos closed in.

Meantime, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces say there was a successful operation, thanks to joint intelligence with the United States. It's not clear which operation they were referring to but that would be significant, since the U.S. has moved out of Syria and fought alongside the Kurds for some time.

We are just four hours away from an announcement by President Trump. We'll see what he has to say then. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Our breaking news coverage continues next.