Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead following a U.S. military special operations mission aimed at bringing down the wanted, The Guardian reports. Following unconfirmed reports Sunday morning that he had died, the Trump administration confirmed his death in a press conference later Sunday morning.
“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless America,” Trump said.
According to Newsweek, Trump approved the mission to target al-Baghdadi a week ago. Following the approval, Special-ops forces conducted a raid in northwest Syria‘s Idlib province to target the terrorist.
Troops closed in on a house where al-Baghdadi was believed to be staying and were apparently met with some resistance coming in. As for al-Baghdadi himself, Trump says that he ran into a dead-end tunnel, where he died “whimpering and crying and screaming.”
Trump also noted that there were at least 14 children in the house. 11 were moved to safety and were not injured in the mission. al-Baghdadi, however, apparently took three of his children into the tunnel with him. Cornered, Trump says, al-Bahdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the three children in the process.
Further, Trump says that, with al-Baghdadi’s death, the Islamic State “Caliphiate” is no more. He called al-Baghdadi and his supporters “losers.”
“They had no idea what they were getting into – in some cases they were very frightened puppies and in other cases they were hardcore killers,” he said.
BREAKING: President Trump says U.S. has killed terrorist leaders during his administration "but not the big names."— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 27, 2019
"I kept saying, 'Where's al-Baghdadi? I want al-Baghdadi.' ... I've been looking for him for three years." pic.twitter.com/PVhCEW7mTT
Cooperation and Resistance
Getting the mission accomplished included flying U.S. aircraft over foreign airspace — specifically, that of Iraq. Fortunately for the mission, Trump says that the Iraqi government was willing to allow that to happen. Russia’s cooperation was also necessary, Trump said.
“Russia treated us great… Iraq was excellent. We really had great cooperation,” he said.
There was also some gunfire aimed at the aircraft as they were closing in on the location; Trump referred to that as “local” gunfire.
Who Was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Believed to have been born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarra in Iraq in 1971, al-Baghdadi used various names and epithets throughout his life, and indeed, the name he was using as he headed the Islamic State was a nom de guerre. He was shy and bookish and, in his early life, eschewed violence, according to a 2014 report in The Telegraph.
He was installed as the leader of the Islamic State in May 2010, following the death of his predecessor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Under his leadership, the terrorist group gained prominence, at one time having maintained a large swath of territory covering two countries.
This is a developing story. More information about al-Bahdadi’s death and the mission that killed him will be provided as it becomes available.