US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a nighttime raid by US special forces in northwest Syria.
In a televised address Trump from the White House told that US forces killed a “large number” of ISIS terrorists during the raid which culminated in cornering Baghdadi in a tunnel, where he set off a suicide vest.
“He ignited his vest, killing himself,” Trump said.
“He died after running into a dead end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said, adding that three of Baghdadi’s children also died in the blast.
The raid required flying more than an hour by helicopter in both directions from an undisclosed base. US forces were accompanied by help from Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
ISIS at one time controlled most parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a state known as a caliphate, which was governed by extreme version of the Islamic law.
Apart from controlling lands, ISIS planned and inspired terrorist attacks across Europe.
After years of war, ISIS was was completely defeated after most parts of lands were seized back by this March.
Now with the death of Baghdadi, President Trump can take a decision to withdraw a small but effective deployment of US forces from Syria.
A war monitor said US helicopters dropped forces in an area of Syria’s Idlib province where “groups linked to the ISIS group” were present.
How the assault unfolded?
The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain but relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information.
The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women.
AFP correspondent outside Barisha saw a minibus scorched to cinders by the side of the road, and windows shattered in a neighbor’s house surrounded by red agricultural land dotted with olive trees.
Eyewitness Abdel Hameed said, he rushed to the place of the attack after he heard helicopters, gunfire and strikes in the night.
The choppers were flying very low causing panic among the people, a resident said AFP.
Turkey, which has been waging an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria in recent weeks, had “advance knowledge” about the raid.
Trump also said that Iraq had been “very good” over the raid. He said no US soldiers were wounded, despite “doing a lot of shooting” and “a lot of blasting.” The only US casualty was a military dog in the tunnel with the trapped ISIS leader.
Even though the U.S. president confirmed Baghdadi’s killing, his death must be taken with a pinch of salt because Baghdadi has a history of being reported dead several times in recent years.
Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Baghdadi is an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old and the chief of the caliphate.
US State Department has a $25 million bounty for information on his whereabouts.
He is rarely seen in public. After 2014 he disappeared from sight, he surfaced only in a video in April with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” after the group’s territorial defeat.
His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that despite their defeat in March.