ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “is dead” in a secret US special forces raid in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday, saying the world’s number one terrorist died “like a dog and like a coward”.
The feared terrorist leader died like a coward, “whimpering and crying” when cornered in a dead-end tunnel by US Special Forces in Syria, and will “never again harm an innocent man, woman or child”, said Trump.
President Trump confirmed the death of the ISIS leader during a press conference at the White House.
“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said.
“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.
According to Trump, American K9 dogs chased down the ISIS leader to a dead-end tunnel along with three children and he was left with no option but to blew up his suicide vest.
“Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” he added.
The ISIS chief, who is said to be 48 years old, was eliminated by the US Special Operations forces.
“He (Baghdadi) reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He died in his vest, killing himself. And the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition,” Trump said in a televised address to the nation.
Trump said he, along with Vice President Mike Pence and top military leadership, watched the entire operation live.
“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.
The US President asserted that Baghdadi’s killing demonstrates “America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and US’ commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organisations”.
Trump further said that the footage of the operation must be “brought out”.
Despite being hunted by the world’s best intelligence agencies and the US authorities offering a whopping USD 25 million reward for information leading to his capture, Baghdadi has proved to be incredibly elusive.
Baghdadi joined Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which merged with other Islamist groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq. He became the group’s leader in 2010 after his predecessor was killed by US forces.
He renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, widely known as ISIL or ISIS in 2013 and announced his “caliphate” in 2014.
The killing of the ISIS 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.
(With agency inputs)