IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in US raid
Washington: US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that Islamic State militant group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a daring overnight raid by elite US special operations forces in Syria, in a major victory as he fights a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
Baghdadi died alongside three of his children by detonating an explosives-laden vest when he fled US forces into a dead-end tunnel during the attack, which took place in the Idlib region in northwest Syria, the Republican president said in a televised address to the nation from the White House.
Under Iraqi-born Baghdadi’s rule, Islamic State — which at one point controlled swathes of Syria and Iraq — is responsible for gruesome attacks against religious minorities and attacks on five continents in the name of a form of ultra-fanatical Islam.
“Last night the United States brought the world’s No.1 terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said in extended remarks describing the raid.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the goal of the operation had been to capture Baghdadi if possible but kill him if necessary.
Esper said two US forces suffered minor injuries during the operation but have already returned to duty. Trump said a military dog was wounded.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the operation was staged from an airbase in western Iraq.
The death of Baghdadi was an important win for Trump weeks after his sudden decision to withdraw US troops from Syria sparked a wave of harsh criticism, including from fellow Republicans, that the move would lead to a resurgence of Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.
Russia opened up its airspace for the raid and Kurdish allies gave some helpful information, according to Trump, who watched the operation unfold with Vice President Mike Pence and others.
Trump said the raid would not change his decision to withdraw troops from Syria. US forces included the elite Delta Force, a US official told Reuters.