ISIS Chief Dead In US Raid In Northwest Syria: Prez Trump

Daesh leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi speaks in this screen grab taken from video released on April 29, 2019. (Reuters File Pic))

WASHINGTON -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".

Speaking from the White House on Sunday morning, President Trump said the ISIS leader spent his last moments "whimpering and crying and screaming" in a dead-end tunnel before he blew himself up, killing also his three children.

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.

"Last night the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead," Trump announced from the East Room of the White House.

"He died like a dog. He died like a coward. He was screaming, crying and whimpering," the President told reporters, adding that he had been looking for Baghdadi for three years.

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.

"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 our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organisations," he said.

No US troops were killed in the operation, 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, adding that US forces have collected his DNA samples.

Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a "caliphate" in areas of Iraq and Syria.

IS 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.

Over the last five years, there has been little more than brief sightings, spotty intelligence and conflicting information about the leader's whereabouts. He has been incorrectly reported dead or injured multiple times.

The killing of the ISIS leader the top terrorist leader comes as a major political victory for president Trump who is facing an impeachment proceeding against him by the opposition Democratic Party, which hold the majority in the House of Representatives.

Trump thanked Russians, Turks, Syria and Iraq for their support in this operation. He also thanked the Syrian Kurds for their information that turned out to be helpful in the operation.

"Kurds didn't play a military role but they gave us info," he said.

Trump said the US special forces flew over some territory in Turkey, knowing that "we were going in".

"We spoke to the Russians we told them were coming in...They were very good," Trump said, adding that the US did not tell Russia what the mission was about, except that they would be "very happy".

"It was a secret mission. We were met with gunfire coming in but it was local gunfire and it was terminated immediately," Trump said.

The lift off for the attack started sometime after 5 pm (local time), Trump said, adding that 11 children were rescued from the compound along with several others.

A large number of documents and materials have also been recovered from the compound. DNA tests have proved that it was Baghdadi. American soldiers did an onsite DNA sample testing. Substantial body parts of the top terrorist leaders have been brought back. Two wives, both wearing vests, had not detonated, were dead, he said.

Great day for America, say US leaders after Baghdadi's death

Congratulating American troops for their daring air raid in northwest Syria that led to the death of ISIS leader and the world's most wanted terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, top US leaders on Sunday described it as a great day for America and hailed President Donald Trump for the secret mission.

"It is truly a great day in America! Congratulations to President Trump, our intel community, and our US Special Forces for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world," said Nikki Haley, Indian-American leader and former US Ambassador to the UN.

"This is a great day for United States, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and people all across the world who have suffered far too long from the cruelty of terrorism," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The ISIS leader was taken down by the US Special Forces during an air raid in his hideout in northwest Syria on Saturday night.

"While there is still work left to do to ensure ISIS's enduring defeat, Baghdadi's death follows the path of scores of other ISIS leaders that have been removed from the battlefield and can no longer commit heinous atrocities or spread their vile ideology of hatred to poison and recruit vulnerable minds. His evil acts of beheadings, enslavement of women, rape, torture, and pure brutality follows him to his grave," Pompeo said.

"This is a great day for America and a great day for the world. Last night, US joint special operations forces and interagency partners flawlessly executed a Commander-in-Chief directed operation to capture or kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. As a result, al-Baghdadi, who led the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist movement and inspired one of the most brutal and misguided terror campaigns in modern history, is dead at the hands of the United States military," said Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper.

"With our partners we defeated the physical caliphate of ISIS earlier this year and now its founder and leader is dead. This is a major victory in the enduring defeat ISIS mission. I want to commend all those participating in and supporting the operation - American and partners alike - for a job well done," Esper said.

Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden congratulated special forces, intelligence community, and all the brave military professionals on delivering justice to the terrorist al-Baghdadi.

"It is thanks to their courage and relentless determination to carry out their mission that ISIS has suffered a vital loss," he said.

As the key figure behind the creation of ISIS, Baghdadi's corrosive message inspired attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives around the world, including in the United States, he said.

He proclaimed not the teachings of Islam, but a warped ideology of hate and brutality, built on mass slaughters, public executions, the enslavement of ethnic and religious minorities, and evils that have no place in any society. The world is better and safer without him in it, Biden said.

"We cannot afford to get distracted or take our eye off the target. ISIS remains a threat to the American people and our allies, and we must keep up the pressure to prevent ISIS from ever regrouping or again threatening the United States," Biden said.

"Americans salute the heroism, dedication and skill of our military and our intelligence professionals and acknowledge the work of our partners in the region. We are relieved that no US personnel died in this daring raid," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Pelosi demanded that the House be briefed on the raid, which the Russians, but not top Congressional leadership, were notified of in advance, and on the administration's overall strategy in the region.

"The death of al-Baghdadi is significant, but the death of this ISIS leader does not mean the death of ISIS. Scores of ISIS fighters remain under uncertain conditions in Syrian prisons, and countless others in the region and around the world remain intent on spreading their influence and committing acts of terror," Pelosi said.

"This morning's announcement should confirm for the world what many already knew that terrorists cannot outlast or outmatch the commitment of the US counter-terrorism apparatus. We will not stop or waver in destroying terrorist leaders wherever they hide," House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said.

"I applaud yesterday's heroic actions by our US special operations forces and intelligence services to root out and eliminate the top leader of the oppressive Islamic State terrorist group," said Senator Johnny Isakson.

Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the brave special operations forces successfully executed a dangerous mission to get ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.

"Killing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an important achievement in the fight against ISIS. I am grateful to our men and women in uniform, our intelligence professionals, and our allies who contributed to this success. We have robbed ISIS of their founder and leader," said Congressman Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The ISIS leader's death marks a significant milestone in US' ongoing campaign to destroy ISIS and their threat to America, said Congressman Michael McCaul, lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Baghdadi led one of the most brutal terror organizations in the world, which celebrated public executions, rape, torture and murder," said Congressman Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

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