Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "is dead" in a secret US special forces raid in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday, saying the elusive leader of the "ruthless" Islamic State and the world's number one terrorist died "like a dog and like a coward". Satellite images released by Maxar Technologies, a space technology company show the compound where Baghdadi breathed his last.
Speaking from the White House on Sunday morning, President Trump said the American K9 dogs chased down the ISIS leader to a dead-end tunnel along with three children and he was left with no option but to blew up his suicide vest.
"Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place," he said.
Trump said the US Special Operations forces conducted the “daring and dangerous nighttime raid and “accomplished their mission in grand style” in taking out the ISIS chief, who is said to be 48 years old.
“He (Baghdadi) reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He died in his vest, killing himself. And the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition,” Trump said in a televised address to the nation.
Trump said he, along with Vice President Mike Pence and top military leadership, watched the entire operation live “better than a movie” from the situation room of the White House.
Baghdadi “was a sick and depraved man. And now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent. He died in a vicious and violent way as a coward, running, and crying,” the President told reporters, adding that he had been looking for Baghdadi for three years.
“He was the founder and leader of ISIS. The most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration,” he said.
“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 said.
Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and US’ commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organisations,” Trump said.
“Our reach is very long as you know last month, we announced that we recently killed Hamza bin Laden, the very violent son of Osama bin Laden, who was saying very bad things about people about our country about the world. He was the heir apparent to al Qaeda,” he said.
No US troops were killed in the operation in Syria, but a number of Baghdadi’s followers also died while others were captured, the President said, adding that “highly sensitive material and information” had been gathered.
Trump said the footage of the operation should be “brought out” that Baghdadi “died whimpering, screaming and crying”.
“They should see how he died. He didn’t die a hero. He died a coward. It was close-end tunnel, where he died. Not a good place to be. Test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification,” he said.
The US commandos blasted the compound wall. The blast mutilated Baghdadi’s body but DNA tests confirmed his identity, Trump said.
“It was him,” Trump said. “We were in the compound for approximately two hours. After the mission was accomplished we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid much having to do with ISIS origins, future plans, things that we very much want,” he added.
Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a “caliphate” in areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIS carried out a number of atrocities that resulted in thousands of deaths.
Despite being hunted by the world’s best intelligence agencies and US authorities offering a whopping USD 25 million reward for information leading to his capture, ISIS’ leader-Baghdadi has proved to be incredibly elusive.