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Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. hoped to capture ISIS leader alive

This image from video provided by the Department of Defense and released on Thursday shows the compound where Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, leader of the Islamic State Group, later died in a raid in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. <em></em>
Department of Defense via AP
This image from video provided by the Department of Defense and released on Thursday shows the compound where Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, leader of the Islamic State Group, later died in a raid in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. <em></em>

The pre-dawn raid Thursday that led to the death of Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was meant to take ISIS leader alive, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Kirby, in an interview with Morning Edition hosts Steve Inskeep and Rachel Martin, said the U.S. operation in northern Syria against al-Qurayshi took two hours, more than twice the time U.S. forces needed to attack Osama bin Laden's compound. That's because, he said, there was an innocent family on the first floor of al-Qurayshi's building.

"We wanted to make sure we could get them out safely," he said.

Kirby said that the U.S. "had hoped to be able to capture Abdullah alive and that we figured would require some doing, including the fact that he would resist or fight back."

The U.S. is certain that al-Qurayshi is dead, he said, based on forensic evidence.

"They were able to get fingerprints off of his body right there on site and compare it immediately before they even left the site," Kirby said. DNA analysis was done as well "that confirmed it," he said.

He said U.S. officials have yet to determine whether to release any video evidence of the attack. "We're working our way through that. And if we think that that's something that can be done and should be done, we'll certainly explore it," he said.

Kirby also discussed claims that Russia would stage a false-flag attack

Kirby also said U.S. intelligence believes Russia is planning to "manufacture an atrocity" in order to justify invading Ukraine. Intelligence officials, he said, believe Russia "would manufacture an atrocity, an event, a killing, perhaps a mass killing. And they would they would do it with, you know, a slick video that would show corpses on the ground, perhaps corpses that they took out of other places, mortuaries or something like that."

Kirby said the Russians would use actors as mourners and perhaps stage imagery of military equipment "that would make it look like it was actually Ukrainian instead of Russian."

It's believed Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops at its border with Ukraine.

As for what proof the U.S. has that Russia would stage a false flag operation to justify moving into Ukraine, Kirby said, "If there was a way to do this and that wouldn't reveal how we know it, I think, you know, we'd be willing to look at that. But we also don't necessarily want the Russians to know how we know stuff." The comments echo what State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday when pressed for evidence that Russia of a potential false-flag attack.

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