The shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world’s most wanted man, is dead after being targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria, President Donald Trump said Sunday.
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump announced at the White House, saying the U.S. had “brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice.”
As U.S. forces bore down on him, Trump said al-Baghdadi fled into a “dead-end” tunnel with three of his children and detonated a suicide vest. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.”
No U.S. forces were killed or injured in the raid, Trump said. He added that al-Baghdadi’s identity was positively confirmed by a DNA test conducted onsite.
The Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by US special forces in a raid on his Syrian safehouse, Donald Trump announced on Sunday, ending a years-long manhunt for one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
Trump said the “impeccable”, 2-hour operation was conducted on Saturday night in the province of Idlib, one of the last areas of the country still outside Syrian regime control, and that US officials had confirmed Baghdadi, 48, was among those killed.
“US special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in north-west Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” Trump said.
The Isis leader died “running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” he said.
Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest and killed himself and three of his children, Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.”
Trump said US forces were engaged with “massive firepower” as they arrived at the building where Baghdadi was sheltering with his family and associates.
“The compound had to be cleared at this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed,” he said. “Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured.
“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to a certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down.
“[Baghdadi] ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children,” Trump said. “Test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification, it was him.”
The US fighters collected “highly sensitive material and information” before they left the site, Trump said.
He thanked the governments of Russia, Iraq, Syria and Turkey as well as the Syrian Kurdish forces for their assistance.
The killing of al-Baghdadi marks a significant foreign policy success for Trump, coming at one of the lowest points in his presidency as he is mired in impeachment proceedings and facing widespread Republican condemnation for his Syria policy.
Baghdadi’s death is likely to be a significant fillip for Trump, who has faced withering criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for withdrawing troops from north-eastern Syria, effectively allowing Turkey to move against the US’s Kurdish allies in the region.