BARISHA, SYRIA – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive leader of the Islamic State group and the world’s most wanted man, met his demise near a small village in northwestern Syria called Barisha.
This is what we know about the area:
Barisha is located less than 5 km from Turkey and close to Bab al-Hawa, one of the main border crossings between the two countries.
The house targeted in the overnight U.S. special forces raid that U.S. President Donald Trump says killed Baghdadi was on the edge of the village.
The area is mountainous and sparsely populated, about 25 km (15.5 miles) north of Idlib city, the capital of the province.
It lies barely 5 km east of Qalb Lozeh, which is one of a scattering of ancient villages listed as world heritage by UNESCO and hosts a Byzantine church that is thought to have inspired the design of Notre Dame in Paris.
The agricultural area, like many others in Idlib province, is home to small informal settlements of displaced people from other parts of Syria.
Barisha’s population of some 7,000 inhabitants is impoverished, with many relying on aid, local television station Aleppo TV said in a report on the village in January.
The area where Barisha lies is nominally under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an outfit that includes ex-members of al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate.
But IS sleeper cells and the al-Qaida-linked Hurras al-Deen group are also present in the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.
The village is near the border with Turkey but far from the regions where U.S. forces were deployed and used to operating.
The mountainous region is known for smuggling and porous enough for other armed groups than HTS to operate in.
The IS fighters who managed to flee the Kurdish-led offensive that eradicated their “caliphate” in eastern Syria earlier this year scattered in different directions.
Some are thought to have slipped across the borders with Iraq or Turkey, while others headed to the Badia desert and the Palmyra region.
Several other reports at the time of the fall of Baghouz in early 2019 also mentioned that convoys of operatives had crept into Idlib province, despite IS’s bitter rivalry with al-Qaida and its HTS offshoot.