The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces had an intelligence source embedded deep in ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's inner circle who provided key information for the U.S. military operation that led to the terrorist's death, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the leader of the Kurdish forces in Syria, confirmed Monday.
Abdi, in an exclusive interview with NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, said the informant was able to describe a room-by-room layout of Baghdadi's compound in northern Syria, including the floor plan, tunnels, and even the number of guards.
He said Kurdish intelligence operatives who were managing the source then passed the information to American forces, which gave U.S. Special Operations an understanding of the safe house.
Abdi said the source was even able to provide a pair of Baghdadi's used underwear and a sample of his blood to be used in DNA testing.
The general described the source as one of Baghdadi's security advisers, who was at the location during the raid and left with the U.S. forces. He said the man had proven to U.S. intelligence he had direct access to Baghdadi this summer, when he turned over the ISIS leader's used underwear, and later, a sample of his blood, to be used in DNA testing.
The underwear was stolen about three months ago, and the blood sample taken about a month ago, a Kurdish official confirmed.
President Donald Trump thanked the Kurds for their role in the operation, but said they did not play a military role but instead had given "information that turned out to be helpful."
Engel reported, for many Kurds, the brief acknowledgment, coming after Trump thanked Russia and other nations, was not enough to recognize their role in the capture. However, Abdi praised the raid through his Twitter account, noting the "joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring" for five months. He tagged Trump in the tweet.
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