President Donald Trump declared Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend.
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said at the White House, calling the ISIS leader’s removal “the top national security priority of my administration.”
The President said a US special operations forces mission went after the ISIS leader and there were no US deaths during the operation. Only a dog got injured.
Several ISIS fighters and companions of al-Baghdadi were killed, including two women wearing suicide vests and three children. Trump would not provide a specific number of casualties, only describing those targeted on the scene as “more dead than alive.” Eleven children were moved out of the house and are uninjured, the President said.
The death of al-Baghdadi marks the culmination of a years-long hunt to find one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the man who declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Trump said al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a dead-end tunnel by dogs, bringing three children with him. At the end of the tunnel, he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children with him.
‘He died like a coward’
The President said “immediate” and “totally positive” test results proved it was al-Baghdadi, saying a lab technician on the scene of the raid confirmed the ISIS leader’s death.
“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said.
Trump described the situation, saying the ISIS leader “spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
The President said US forces obtained “highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS — origins, future plans, things that we very much want.”
Trump told reporters al-Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks and that two to three planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched.
Meanwhile, Democrats are not happy because Trump did not inform the House ahead of the raid that killed the ISIS leader.
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Trump on al-Baghdadi mission
“I would like to congratulate President Trump on his impressive achievement on that led to the assassination of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi,” Netanyahu said in a statement posted on social media today from the Palmachim air force base in central Israel.
“This reflects our shared determination, of the United States and of all the free countries, to fight terrorist organizations and terrorist states. This achievement is an important milestone, but the campaign is still in front of us,” Netanyahu added.
America Defense Secretary Mark Esper: Al-Baghdadi’s death is a “devastating blow” to ISIS
Defense Secretary Mark Esper described the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a “devastating blow” to a terrorist organization that has launched horrific attacks across the world.
“This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways,” Esper told Jake Tapper Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Esper added that “we’re going to watch carefully next steps. And as a new leader and leaders pop up we’ll go after them as well.”
“The President approved a raid on the target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we didn’t capture him, of course, we were going to kill him,” Esper said in a pre-taped interview with CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper.
Esper said soldiers tried to get al-Baghdadi to surrender but he killed himself instead, as the President said.
“We tried to call him out and asked him to surrender himself. He refused. He went down to a subterranean area and in the process of trying to get him out, he detonated a suicide vest, we believe, and killed himself.”