WASHINGTON, DC — President Donald Trump announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
He announced his death in an address to the nation Sunday morning from the White House.
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said, noting he was killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend.
The president confirmed that al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest that he was wearing as a U.S. special mission unit carried out a ground raid in Idlib. The building containing al-Baghdadi was leveled by U.S. operators.
The president said there were no U.S. deaths during the mission.
The President said “immediate” and “totally positive” test results proved it was al-Baghdadi.
“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said.
Trump described the situation, saying the ISIS leader “spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
The president said U.S. forces obtained “highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS — origins, future plans, things that we very much want.”
Trump told reporters al-Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks and that two to three planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched.
The U.S. flew over certain Russian airspace during the mission, he said.
The President said he watched the operation from the White House Situation Room but would not give more details of what type of feed it was.
“Last night was a great night for Untied States and for the world,” the president said. He described in sometimes brutal terms how Baghdadi died.
He said the leader, “spent his last moments in utter fear… terrified of the American forces bering down on him.” He described Baghdadi as, “crying, whimpering, screaming, and bringing three kids with him. To die. Certain death.”
Trump said it was a “very dangerous mission,” regarding flying in and flying out. He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Syrian Kurds for helping in the mission.
Al-Baghdadi was last seen alive in a video in April.
There had been a $25 million U.S. bounty on the head of al-Baghdadi, who, in his only previous video, recorded in a Mosul mosque in 2014, called himself “Caliph,” or leader of all Muslims.
Rumors had swirled since at least 2014 that al-Baghdadi had been wounded, or possibly even killed, but he’d often quash those himself by releasing audio recordings.
U.S. special forces nearly killed him in August 2017, destroying a compound south of Ragga in which he was believed to have been during a massive bombardment. The following month, he released an audio recording to prove he’d survived.