Two days after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a United States military raid, President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that American forces had also killed the person who would have succeeded Baghdadi as the chief of the terrorist group.
“Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops,” Trump said in a tweet, without revealing the name of the person. “Most likely would have taken the top spot - Now he is also Dead!”
The president was most likely referring to Islamic State spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, according to Reuters. Top US State Department officials had on Monday said that Muhajir was killed in a separate operation in northern Syria. This operation was reportedly conducted jointly between the US and Syrian Kurdish forces.
Trump had on Sunday announced that the terrorist group leader and the world’s most wanted terrorist was killed the previous day during a military raid on a compound in Northwest Syria. Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during the attack by American special forces, he said.
The United States on Monday said it had disposed of the remains of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “appropriately” and in accordance with the standard operating procedures and the law of armed conflict. Earlier in the day, Trump released a picture of a dog involved in the military raid that killed Baghdadi.
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.