WASHINGTON - President Trump formally announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after a successful U.S. military operation in northwest Syria Saturday night that took roughly two hours.
The Islamic State leader died in an apparent suicide, detonating an explosive vest as U.S. Special Operations Forces stormed his compound in the Idrib Province, Fox News reported earlier Sunday morning. Trump announced that the U.S. had al-Baghdadi under surveillance for weeks.
An image grab taken from a video released on July 5, 2014 by Al-Furqan Media shows alleged Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaching during Friday prayer at a mosque in Mosul. (Photo by Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu
“Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.”
Trump said the U.S. had been searching for al-Baghdadi for years, calling his capture or death “the top national security priority of my administration.” Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Kurds in the region.
“No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. recovered “highly sensitive” materials related to ISIS. “You are the very best anywhere in the world,” Trump later said of the U.S. forces.
Trump said al-Baghdadi died while being chased down by U.S. forces in a tunnel, and that the ISIS leader was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” He then detonated a suicide vest, killing himself. Trump said three children who were with al-Baghdadi were also killed in the blast. Eleven other young children were taken out of the location uninjured, Trump said.
“Our reach is very long,” Trump said. He pointed to the recent death of Hamza bin Laden, son of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “These save monsters will not escape their fate, and they will not escape the final judgment of God.”
Trump said “Baghdadi and the losers who work for him” had “no idea what they were getting into.”
Al-Baghdadi reportedly had a $25 million bounty on his head. Some experts had predicted that as time passed and ISIS losses in the Middle East mounted, it was inevitable that al-Baghdadi would be captured or killed.
“The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said. “God bless America.”
Trump was heavily criticized by Democrats and Republicans for withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria earlier this month, with once concern being that it would allow ISIS to regain strength in the region.
“We don’t want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years,” Trump said, but said he intends to secure the oil in the region, which could strengthen ISIS.
Trump defended his decision to pull out of northern Syria, saying that it benefits Russia and China, who can build their military while the U.S. expends resources.