President Donald Trump confirmed the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Sunday morning at a White House press conference.
The President began his address with just a few simple words, “Al-Baghdadi is dead.” He added that United States armed forces brought the world’s top terrorist to justice during a raid near Barishi, Syria, on Saturday after tracking the ISIS leader for several weeks.
BREAKING: ‘Al-Baghdadi is dead’ Trump announces death of al-Baghdadi
In a Sunday morning statement made from the White House, President Trump announces the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after a raid by U.S. forces in Syria. pic.twitter.com/5zlXL1gDJo
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 27, 2019
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said. “Last night was a great night for the U.S. and the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm an innocent man, woman or child.”
Al-Baghdadi, as the head of the Islamic State, is believed to have directed a network of terrorists who committed more than 140 terrorist attacks in nearly 30 countries. His network has killed at least 2,043 people, according to CNN, and enslaved, tortured, and displaced thousands more. Al-Baghdadi, himself, reportedly had a taste for barbarism, and regularly presided over punishments and executions, including numerous beheadings.
Witnesses told NBC News Saturday night that an operation designed to target al-Baghdadi had been in motion for several weeks, and that U.S. troops made a handful of aborted attempts to snag the terrorist leader before the successful mission on Saturday.
Richard Engle reported that U.S. forces “didn’t just attack one target. They targeted multiple houses and a car in the area,” that the raid on al-Baghdadi’s compound took between three and four hours, and that al-Baghdadi’s ISIS bodyguards fought back, detonating at least one vehicle bomb near the location of the raid.
Al-Baghdadi was not killed by U.S. forces, however. The ISIS leader was wearing an explosive suicide belt and detonated it before the U.S. could take him into custody. Al-Baghdadi killed several of his own family members in the blast, including at least three of his own children.
“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said Sunday morning. The President reported that al-Baghdadi was chased into a tunnel by members of the United States Special Operations and a group military dogs when he killed himself.
He died “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump added. “He died like a coward … 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.”
BREAKING: Al-Baghdadi killed himself and three children during U.S. raid, President Trump announces.
"The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear." pic.twitter.com/PW2VrI6oX1
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 27, 2019
“Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders,”the President contined. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone … The world is now a much safer place.”
There were no reports of U.S. casualties, and President Donald Trump was careful to mention that the military dogs involved in the pursuit were unharmed.
Al-Baghdadi was the well-known leader of the Islamic State and an influential figurehead for radical Islamic violence in the Middle East, and he is “the highest-ranking terrorist to be killed or captured since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011,” according to USA Today.
In the question and answer portion of his Sunday morning press conference, Trump added that he directed the United States military to pursue al-Baghdadi almost from the beginning of his presidency: “I kept saying, ‘Where’s al-Baghdadi? I want al-Baghdadi.’ … I’ve been looking for him for three years.”
Trump told reporters that he watched the raid live in a White House situation room, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other high-ranking military and intelligence officials. And although he went on to thank other forces involved in Syria, including Russia, Turkey, Iraq, and even the Syrian Kurds, Trump was careful to indicate that only American military forces were involved in the raid and responsible for al-Baghdadi’s death.
The United States military and the president himself were unusually forthcoming about the operation, likely in an effort to sustain a public relations victory against ISIS in the Middle East, particularly in areas where the Islamic State’s reach remains strong.
The president ended his speech with some statements on his administration’s Middle East policy which are likely to be controversial, including that the United States is remaining in Syria to “secure” oil reserves there, and not to keep the peace. But the White House was clear Sunday that they intend on elaborating on that in the coming days and weeks.