Trump says Islamic State leader Baghdadi dead in US forces raid

Trump says Islamic State leader Baghdadi dead forces raid My Country
Trump says Islamic State leader Baghdadi dead forces raid My Country

Trump says Islamic State leader Baghdadi dead forces raid My Country

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that fugitive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a raid by US special forces in northwest Syria, in a major blow to the militant group.

Baghdadi killed himself during the raid by igniting a suicide vest, Trump said in a televised address from the White House. Test results from the aftermath of the raid had positively identified Baghdadi, he said.

“He was a sick and depraved man and now he’s gone,” Trump said.

The death of Baghdadi was an important win for Trump weeks after his sudden decision to withdraw US troops from Syria sparked a wave of harsh criticism, including from fellow Republicans, that the move would lead to a resurgence of Islamic State.

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, panic and dread, terrified of the American forces coming down on him,” the Republican president said.

Trump said Baghdadi died after running into a dead-end tunnel.

“He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three children. His body was mutilated by the blasts. The tunnel had caved on him,” Trump added.

In what may end up being one of Trump’s most important national security achievements, the killing of Baghdadi will help the Republican president project strength as he fights a widening impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats last month.

Baghdadi had long been sought by the United States, as head of a militant group that at one point controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq, declaring a caliphate. The group has carried out atrocities against religious minorities and attacks on five continents in the name of a version of an ultra-fanatic Islam that horrified mainstream Muslims.

In recent years the group had lost most of its territory. But while the destruction of the quasi-state that Baghdadi built has denied the group its recruiting tool and logistical base from which it could train fighters and plan coordinated attacks overseas, most security experts believe Islamic State remains a threat through clandestine operations or attacks.

Trump had faced withering criticism from fellow Republicans and Democrats for announcing a withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria earlier this month, which permitted Turkey to attack America’s Kurdish allies as it sought to set up a “safe zone”.

Many critics of the pullout have expressed concern both at the abandoning of the Kurdish forces who had been instrumental in defeating Islamic State in Syria, and that the move might allow the group to regain strength and pose a threat to US interests.

$25 million reward

Baghdadi — an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old — was rarely seen.

After 2014, he disappeared from sight, only surfacing in a video in April this year with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” for IS members who had been killed.

His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that, while it had lost its physical territory, had spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and claimed several deadly attacks in Europe.

But Baghdadi remained on the run. The US State Department posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Under Baghdadi, the State Department said, IS “has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States”.

In September, the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of IS affiliates in other regions.

Trump says Islamic State leader Baghdadi dead forces raid My Country