US President Donald Trump didn't hold back from revealing in a press conference Sunday the gruesome details of the US special forces raid in northern Syria that left ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead.
When a reporter asked whether DNA tests had been conducted to establish al-Baghdadi's identity after he detonated a suicide belt with US forces in pursuit, the president replied that tests had been conducted "on site," and US forces had also taken parts of the terrorist leader's body back with them.
"As I said, they brought body parts back with them, etc., etc. There wasn't much left. The — the vest blew up, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back," Trump said.
The president didn't disclose further details of the processes used to identify al-Baghdadi, but Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that the terrorist leader's head survived the explosion intact, allowing US forces to identify him partly using facial recognition technology.
—Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) October 27, 2019
Experts told The New York Times that new technology the US military and intelligence agencies have invested in can conduct DNA tests in as little as 90 minutes, and it is likely that further samples and body parts were used to conduct more tests when US forces returned to their base after completing the raid.
What was done with al-Baghdadi's body parts after the tests were conducted is unknown.
Osama bin Laden was buried at sea to prevent a burial site from becoming a shrine
Trump's relishing in the details of al-Baghdadi's demise and gruesome end contrast with the Obama administration's treatment of Osama bin Laden's remains.
The US Navy SEALS who assassinated the former al-Qaeda leader in 2011 faced a similar quandary — but in that raid the terrorist leader's body survived intact. Bin Laden was killed by gunfire from US forces in a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the body was transported back with US forces for further tests to conclusively establish his identity.
Even as recently as 2011, DNA tests had to be conducted in a lab. NSA files that Edward Snowden leaked to the Washington Post revealed that the DNA tests to confirm bin Laden's identify were done in a lab in Afghanistan eight hours after the raid.
The Obama administration was conscious that if the final burial site of bin Laden were revealed, it could quickly become a site of pilgrimage for Islamist radicals. So the body was transported to the USS Carl Vinson, where traditional procedures for Islamic burial were observed, and the body was tipped into the Arabian Sea.
"A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker," a US defense official said at the time.
Similarly, Business Insider's David Choi reported that US forces destroyed the building where al-Baghdadi died to prevent it from becoming a shrine.