United States President Donald Trump on Sunday announced terrorist group Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed the day before during a military raid on a compound in Northwest Syria. Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during the attack by American special forces.
“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump announced from the White House. “He was the founder and leader of ISIS.” Trump said the test results, which included DNA confirmation, were “totally positive”.
The president said Baghdadi ran into the dead end of a tunnel while attempting to escape along with three of his children. The detonation mutilated his body and the tunnel caved in, Trump said, adding that sensitive materials about the terrorist group were also recovered by the American forces, who stayed at the compound for two hours.
“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone,” the president said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way. 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.”
Trump confirmed that no American soldier was killed in the incident. Baghdadi’s death was an example of America’s pursuit of terrorist leaders, the president said, adding that this was the country’s “commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organisations”.
On Saturday, Trump had cryptically tweeted: “Something very big has just happened!” News reports speculated that it was about the Islamic State leader’s death.
Described as the most-wanted individual in the world, the Islamic State leader was designated a terrorist almost eight years ago. The United States had announced a reward of $10 million (approximately Rs 70 crore) for his capture.
Baghdadi was born in Iraq in 1971. He declared himself the Islamic State’s Caliph in 2013. His first known public appearance was in 2014, when he delivered a Ramzan sermon at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul in northern Iraq. He announced the birth of the caliphate.
The terrorist group’s fighters took control of western Iraq in 2014, and initiated a campaign of terror and atrocities over the next year-and-a-half across the country and Syria as the national borders crumbled. The group’s control over the region finally weakened from 2016 as forces in the region, especially Syrian Kurdish fighters, forced it to retreat from areas under its control.
Baghdadi’s death is the biggest victory for the United States’ international anti-terror operations since Navy SEAL forces killed al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.
In the last few years, several reports on Baghdadi’s death had surfaced. In June 2017, Russia claimed to have killed him in an airstrike near the Syrian city of Raqqa. The Islamic State released a video around April in which Baghdadi was seen describing the Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka as revenge for the losses suffered by the group in the Syrian town of Al-Baghuz Fawqani.
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