WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fugitive Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying” in a raid by U.S. particular forces in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump introduced on Sunday, in what he referred to as a serious victory over the jihadist group.
Baghdadi killed himself through the raid by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing right into a dead-end tunnel, Trump mentioned in a televised deal with from the White Home.
He was positively recognized by DNA exams 15 minutes after he died, the president mentioned.
“He was a sick and wicked man and now he’s gone,” mentioned Trump, including that capturing or killing Baghdadi had been the highest nationwide safety precedence for his administration.
The demise of Baghdadi is a extreme blow to Islamic State, which has been in disarray and has no declared successor as chief but. However the group has previously proved resilient, persevering with to mount or encourage assaults within the area and past regardless of shedding most of its territory in recent times.
Trump mentioned “many” of Baghdadi’s individuals have been killed within the raid and added that in blowing himself up, Baghdadi additionally killed three of his youngsters.
U.S. forces suffered no personnel losses, he mentioned. He additionally thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for his or her assist.
Turkey mentioned it was proud to have helped “convey a infamous terrorist to justice” and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Trump on an “spectacular achievement”.
However Russia’s response was muted, with the protection ministry in Moscow saying merely that it had no dependable data on the U.S. raid.
Baghdadi had lengthy been sought by the USA as head of a jihadist group that at one level managed massive areas of Syria and Iraq, the place it declared a caliphate. Islamic State has carried out atrocities in opposition to non secular minorities and assaults on 5 continents within the identify of an ultra-fanatic model of Islam that horrified mainstream Muslims.
“The thug who tried so laborious to intimidate others spent his final moments in utter concern, panic and dread, scared of the American forces coming down on him,” Trump mentioned.
“He reached the tip of the tunnel as our canine chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three youngsters. His physique was mutilated by the blasts. The tunnel had caved on him,” Trump added.
“He died … whimpering and crying and screaming.”
SOUND OF PLANES
Within the hours earlier than Trump’s announcement, sources within the area had described the raid on a compound within the village of Barisha, in Idlib province bordering Turkey, within the early hours of Sunday.
“We woke as much as the sound of planes, we went out and noticed (forces) in entrance of us carrying weapons. ‘Get on the bottom, get on the bottom!’ (they mentioned) so we went down,” one native resident instructed Reuters TV.
“They handcuffed us and put us to the aspect. (They requested)’How are you aware this man?’ We mentioned we don’t know him, we’d see individuals coming and going however we by no means interacted with them. In order that they mentioned, ‘you might be protected, keep to the aspect’.”
Iraqi state tv broadcast night-time footage of an explosion and daytime pictures of a crater within the floor and what it mentioned was the aftermath of the raid, together with torn and blood-stained garments.
Iraq’s army mentioned later in a press release that its intelligence companies had positioned Baghdadi’s whereabouts and had handed the data to the USA.
Trump mentioned eight helicopters carried the U.S. particular forces troops to the compound the place Baghdadi was hiding, the place they have been met with gunfire earlier than blasting their means in by means of the partitions to keep away from a booby-trapped foremost door.
The U.S. forces spent round two hours within the compound, he mentioned, including that they’d taken away “delicate data” referring to Islamic State.
Russia “handled us nice” by opening up airspace it managed for the raid and Kurdish allies gave some useful data, in keeping with Trump. The Russian protection ministry, nevertheless, mentioned it was not conscious of any help to U.S. forces.
The president mentioned he watched the operation unfold within the Scenario Room of the White Home, with Vice President Mike Pence, Protection Secretary Mark Esper and the joint army chiefs. He added that Russia had not been conscious of the character of the U.S. mission.
Trump had confronted withering criticism from fellow Republicans and Democrats for saying a withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria earlier this month, which permitted Turkey to assault America’s Kurdish allies because it sought to arrange a “protected zone”.
Trump mentioned the raid wouldn’t change his choice to withdraw troops from Syria.
Many critics of the pullout have expressed concern each on the abandoning of the Kurdish forces who had been instrumental in defeating Islamic State in Syria, and that the transfer would possibly enable the group to regain energy and pose a menace to U.S. pursuits.
The profitable concentrating on of Baghdadi within the raid may assist blunt these issues, in addition to boosting Trump domestically at a time when he’s going through an impeachment inquiry within the U.S. Home of Representatives.
RELIEF FOR A GRIEVING FATHER
On the peak of its energy, Islamic State dominated over thousands and thousands of individuals in territory operating from northern Syria by means of cities and villages alongside the Tigris and Euphrates valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
1000’s of civilians have been killed by the group because it mounted what the United Nations referred to as a genocidal marketing campaign in opposition to Iraq’s Yazidi minority. It additionally triggered worldwide revulsion by beheading overseas nationals from nations together with the USA, Britain and Japan.
In a single infamous incident, referred to by Trump in his TV deal with, a captured Jordanian air drive pilot was burned alive in a cage.
On Sunday the pilot’s father, Safi Al-Kasaesbeh, instructed Reuters TV he was relieved by information of Baghdadi’s demise.
“I’m proud and comfortable on today, after listening to of the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, this corrupt man, this insect, this virus that unfold all through the physique of not solely the Arab nation but in addition the Muslim nation, who distorted the picture of Muslims and Islam,” he mentioned.
The group has claimed duty for or impressed assaults in dozens of cities together with Paris, Good, Orlando, Manchester, London and Berlin, and in close by Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
However in 2017 Islamic State misplaced management of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and rapidly thereafter virtually all of its territory, turning Baghdadi right into a fugitive.
Throughout a three-year push by a U.S.-led coalition, air strikes killed most of his prime lieutenants and there have been conflicting studies over whether or not Baghdadi was alive till IS revealed a video message by him in April.
Reporting Steve Holland and Phil Stewart; Extra reporting by Khalil Ashawi in Syria, Daniel Wallis and in Washington, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Ahmed Rasheed and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Writing by Jason Neely and Alex Richardson; Modifying by Frances Kerry