Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led the terrorist organization to control a wide swath of the Middle East only to see its self-styled caliphate collapse as the Trump administration applied overwhelming military strength, died during an operation Saturday in the Syrian province of Idlib, military sources told news outlets overnight.
Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest when U.S. Special Operations troops raided a compound where he was hiding in the northern Syrian province, Fox News reported.
President Donald Trump confirmed Baghdadi’s death in a White House news conference Sunday morning.
“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said, according to CNN.
“He was the founder and leader of ISIS. The most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration.
“U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” Trump added. “Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying.”
“He died like a dog,” Trump said. “He died like a coward.”
“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent and he died in a vicious and violent way”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 27, 2019
Trump had caused speculation when he posted a cryptic Twitter message Saturday night that “Something very big has just happened!”
Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
A senior administration official told CNN that the president had personally approved the mission that ended up claiming Baghdadi’s life. No U.S. troops were killed or wounded in the operation. The strike involved ground troops and military aircraft and included ground skirmishes in a Syrian village on the border with Turkey, according to Reuters.
Foreign officials also confirmed Baghdadi’s death.
“Our sources from inside Syria have confirmed to the Iraqi intelligence team tasked with pursuing Baghdadi that he has been killed with his personal bodyguard in Idlib (province) after his hiding place was discovered when he tried to get his family out of Idlib towards the Turkish border,” an Iraqi official said.
While the death was confirmed by numerous sources, the final confirmation will likely come from DNA and biometric testing. Three other men and three women were found dead at the site.
In his news conference Sunday, Trump said that Baghdadi had been under surveillance for several weeks and that several missions had been aborted before the successful one was launched.
Footage of the raid surfaced quickly after reports of Baghdadi’s death began to trickle out.
— H. Sumeri (@IraqiSecurity) October 27, 2019
Nighttime footage showed several explosions while daytime footage of the site evinced almost total destruction of the compound.
— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) October 27, 2019
Former United States United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley posted her congratulations on Twitter.
Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump, our intel community, and our US Special Forces for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world. It is truly a great day in America! ❤️??https://t.co/JMbFfBH10P
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 27, 2019
There had been a $25 million bounty on Baghdadi’s head, who Iraqi intelligence said had been in Syrian border towns, trying to pass in non-traditional clothing and ensuring no one around him had electronic devices, including cell phones.
The Iraqi-born Baghdadi had been in charge of the terrorist group since 2010, when his brother — Abu Omar al-Baghdadi — was killed.
At the time Baghdadi took it over, Reuters noted, the Islamic State group was still “an underground offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq.” At its height, the group controlled significant portions of war-torn Syria and Iraq. The group was also notorious for its social media presence, including posting videos of its executions online.
By the time of his death, however, the group had lost almost all but a few pockets of its territory. Baghdadi was reportedly last heard from on Sept. 16 when he reportedly delivered a 30-minute audio message that was put out on the Islamic State group’s media service.
In it, Baghdadi called for supporters of the terrorist group to rescue women currently jailed in Iraq and Syria over Islamic State links and claiming operations were happening on a daily basis.
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