President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that the leader of the so-called Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in an overnight US military operation in Syria, delivering a major blow to the terrorist group even as U.S. forces withdraw from the area.
“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said in a grisly Sunday morning address to the nation.
Baghdadi died after running into the end of tunnel, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” as he was chased by American military dogs, Trump said. Accompanied by three young children, Baghdadi then ignited his suicide vest, killing himself and all three children, the president said.
The leader of the so-called Islamic State was targeted near Barisha, Syria overnight, according to two U.S. officials. The mission included helicopters, jets and drones.
U.S. forces fired from the air and then landed and gathered intelligence. There were no reports of U.S. casualties in the raid.
“Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders,” Trump said. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”
The military operation comes after Trump’s controversial decision to draw down troops in Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish military operation against the Kurds, who fought alongside the U.S. to defeat the so-called Islamic State.
“We don’t want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years,” Trump told reporters after his address. “We’re out, but we are leaving soldiers to secure the oil.”
Syrian Kurdish forces claimed on Sunday that they participated in the operation. Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi tweeted: “Successful historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America.”
The president said he did not notify House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the Baghdadi operation, citing that Washington is a “leaking machine.” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff were also not informed. Trump said the White House did notify some congressional leaders.
Trump said only U.S. forces were involved in the operation, but thanked several powers for their cooperation.
“I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq,” Trump said. “I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us.”
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