Top United States leaders on Sunday praised the commando raid in Syria that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, Reuters reported. In a televised address from the White House on Sunday, President Donald Trump had said that Baghdadi, who had led the jihadist group since 2010, killed himself by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing into a dead-end tunnel as US forces closed in.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the leading Democratic Party contender in the fight against Trump in the 2020 presidential elections, congratulated the special forces, the intelligence community and military forces for the operation. “We cannot afford to get distracted or take our eye off the target. ISIS [Islamic State] remains a threat to the American people and our allies, and we must keep up the pressure to prevent ISIS from ever regrouping or again threatening the United States,” he said.

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, said it was a great day for the US. “Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump, our intel community, and our US Special Forces for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world,” Haley said in a tweet.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a regular critic of Trump, said: “Al Baghdadi spread ‘fire and brimstone’ on earth; now he feels it for himself in hell. To all who arranged his change of venue – the intel officers, the President, the warriors – thank you.”

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticised Trump for not informing the Congressional leadership about the raid beforehand. “The death of al-Baghdadi is significant, but the death of this ISIS leader does not mean the death of ISIS,” she said in a statement. “Scores of ISIS fighters remain under uncertain conditions in Syrian prisons, and countless others in the region and around the world remain intent on spreading their influence and committing acts of terror.”

World leaders react

North Atlantic Treaty Organization chief Jens Stoltenberg described the operation “as a significant step in our efforts against international terrorism”. He said NATO remains committed to the fight against ISIS.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the killing of Baghdadi marks a turning point in the joint fight against terrorism. “Turkey will continue to support anti-terror efforts – as it has done in the past,” he said in a tweet. “Having paid the dearest price in the fight against Daesh [another word for Islamic State], PKK/YPG [a Kurd group], and other terrorist organizations, Turkey welcomes this development. I am confident that a decisive struggle against terrorism, in line with the spirit of alliance, will bring peace to all of humanity.”

Iran was critical of the operation. “Not a big deal, You just killed your creature,” Information Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said, accusing United States of creating the circumstances that led to the formation of the Islamic State.

France President Emmanuel Macron said the fight will continue to defeat the terrorist organisation. United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the fight against “the evil of Daesh is not yet over”.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Trump for the achievement. “This reflects our shared determination, of the United States of America and of all free countries, to fight terror organizations and terrorist states,” he said. “This achievement is an important milestone, but the campaign is still ahead of us.”

Russia expressed doubts about Baghdadi’s death. Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, according to RIA news agency: “The Russian Ministry of Defence does not have reliable information on the operation by US servicemen... on yet another ‘elimination’ of former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the Upper House of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Interfax: “Last respects have been paid to al-Baghdadi at least five times in the past. [Also] countering terrorism is a much more difficult task than the physical destruction of its leaders, even the most irreconcilable.”

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