Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant group Isis, was killed on Saturday in a US particular forces raid in north-western Syria, President Donald Trump introduced from the White House on Sunday.
“The United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice,” Mr Trump mentioned at a televised press convention. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
The killing of the militant leader, who for years unleashed terror throughout Syria, Iraq and additional afield, got here simply weeks after Mr Trump confronted bipartisan criticism for withdrawing US forces from north-east Syria and permitting Turkey to invade.
Opponents of the pullout say it betrayed the Syrian Kurds who had been US allies in the struggle in opposition to Isis and that it might permit the jihadi group to surge again after its defeat and expulsion from many of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Trump mentioned Baghdadi was the goal of a commando operation in Idlib province, which borders Turkey in north-west Syria. Though analysts had seen the world as too hostile for the Isis leader, Mr Trump mentioned he had been making an attempt to rebuild the phobia group from there. Idlib is dominated by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda linked group that has beforehand clashed with Isis.
The US president mentioned the operations had been weeks in the planning and mentioned the Isis leader was killed after attempting to flee US forces in a tunnel “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way”.
Baghdadi, accompanied by three kids, detonated a suicide vest, Mr Trump mentioned, including that no US personnel, apart from a canine, have been injured.
“His body was mutilated by the blast,” mentioned the US president. “The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition.”
Baghdadi has topped the checklist of most-wanted terrorists for years and has been the topic of manhunts by US intelligence and different worldwide safety businesses.
Isis, which captured a 3rd of Iraq and an enormous swath of Syria in a lightning sweep in 2014, arrange what it known as an Islamic state in an try to revive the Caliphate of the early days of Islam.
Over the years, there had been quite a few, finally false, stories that Baghdadi had been killed or severely injured. Mr Trump mentioned “test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him”.
From the archive
Isis imposed its harsh and infrequently murderous rule on native populations and attracted hundreds of overseas fighters from quite a few international locations in the Arab area, Europe and America, lured by the attraction of resurgent Islam conquering the world and going again to its purist roots.
Over the years the group has been accused of an extended checklist of atrocities together with suicide bombings, beheadings, rapes and enslavement of girls.
Mr Trump recommended that video of Baghdadi’s demise needs to be launched to function a message to folks tempted to affix the terrorist group. “They should see how he died. He didn’t die a hero, he died a coward,” mentioned Mr Trump.
The operation on Saturday got here after US forces had been surveilling Baghdadi for weeks, Mr Trump mentioned, including that two or three missions had been cancelled after the Isis leader, identified for taking excessive safety precautions together with not utilizing a mobile phone for years, had modified his plans on the final minute.
Baghdadi’s compound had tunnels main from it, although all however one have been lifeless ends, Mr Trump mentioned, including that US forces had blown holes in the partitions of the compound to realize entry as a result of the primary entrances have been booby-trapped.
Eight helicopters participated in the raid, flying low for greater than an hour over harmful territory, a few of it managed by Russian forces, mentioned Mr Trump. He mentioned the helicopters have been met with “local gunfire” going in, that was “immediately terminated”.
“Russia treated us great, they opened up, we had to fly over certain Russia-held areas,” mentioned Mr Trump. US forces had additionally flown over Turkish territory with permission, he added. He additionally thanked Syria, Iraq and the Syrian Kurds who “gave us some info that turned out to be helpful”.
On Sunday morning, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces posted a tweet a couple of “successful and historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America”.
Turkey’s defence minister mentioned in a tweet that “information exchange and co-ordination between the military authorities of both countries took place” earlier than to the US operation in Idlib.
“The Turkish military did have advance knowledge of last night’s raid. We will continue to co-ordinate our actions on the ground,” mentioned a senior Turkish official, with out elaborating on the character of the co-ordination, citing guidelines on commenting on intelligence-sharing.
Mr Trump on Saturday posted a tweet saying that “something very big has just happened”, with out elaborating. He mentioned on Sunday the tweet had been posted after US forces had accomplished the mission and landed safely in a pleasant nation, which he didn’t title.
Mr Trump mentioned details about the mission had been saved to a small group of officers throughout the US authorities. Democratic congressional leaders weren’t briefed in advance, he mentioned.
Mr Trump watched the operation from the White House’s scenario room, he mentioned, simply as Barack Obama in 2011 had watched the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader.
Mr Trump mentioned US forces have been in the compound for about two hours and retrieved “highly sensitive material” concerning the origins of Isis and its future plans.
The US president used the event to evoke the may of the US army: “The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic, and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley