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, fulfilling what he referred to as his prime nationwide safety objective.
Baghdadi, who had led the jihadist group since 2010, killed himself by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing right into a dead-end tunnel as U.S. forces closed in, Trump mentioned in a televised tackle from the White Home.
He was positively recognized by DNA assessments 15 minutes later, 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 his administration’s prime nationwide safety precedence.
Hours later, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia mentioned Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, described as Baghdadi’s right-hand man, had additionally been killed in a separate joint raid by Kurdish-led and U.S. forces in northern Syria.
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 lately.
Baghdadi had lengthy been sought by america – which provided a $25 million reward for his seize – as chief 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 spiritual minorities and assaults on 5 continents within the title of an ultra-fanatic model of Islam that horrified mainstream Muslims.
“Baghdadi’s demise represents an enormous blow to the group’s capability to swell its ranks, mobilize its present supporters and develop the momentum that would restore it to its previous glories,” mentioned Ranj Alaaldin, a fellow at Brookings Establishment in Doha centered on Iraq.
“That mentioned, ISIS (Islamic State) will nonetheless be a potent, under-ground terrorist risk.”
Trump mentioned “many” of Baghdadi’s folks had been killed within the raid and added that in blowing himself up, Baghdadi additionally killed three of his kids.
U.S. forces suffered no personnel losses, he mentioned. He additionally thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for his or her help.
Turkey mentioned it was proud to have helped “deliver a infamous terrorist to justice”, however Russia’s response was skeptical, with the protection ministry in Moscow saying that it had no dependable info on the U.S. raid and observing there had been earlier makes an attempt to kill Baghdadi.
Trump mentioned Baghdadi “reached the tip of the tunnel as our canine chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three kids”.
“He died … whimpering and crying and screaming.”
The raid comes weeks after Trump introduced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, which permitted Turkey to assault America’s Kurdish allies because it sought to arrange a “secure zone”.
The transfer drew withering criticism from fellow Republicans and Democrats, who expressed concern each on the abandoning of the Kurdish fighters who had been instrumental in defeating Islamic State forces in Syria, and that the transfer may permit the group to regain power and pose a risk to U.S. pursuits.
Trump mentioned the raid wouldn’t change his determination to withdraw troops from Syria.
However the profitable focusing on of Baghdadi might assist blunt these issues, in addition to boosting Trump domestically at a time when he’s dealing with an impeachment inquiry within the U.S. Home of Representatives.
Regional allies welcomed the operation, with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan saying it marked “a turning level in our joint combat in opposition to terrorism” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising an “spectacular achievement”.
However some, corresponding to French President Emmanuel Macron, additionally warned Islamic State was not completed. “Al-Baghdadi’s demise is a tough blow in opposition to Islamic State, however it’s only a stage,” he mentioned. France’s inside minister referred to as for elevated vigilance in case of acts of revenge by extremists.
Longtime U.S. foe Iran, which accuses america and its allies of making Islamic State, was dismissive. Data Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, tweeted: “Not an enormous deal, You simply killed your creature”.
Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, an knowledgeable on jihadist teams, mentioned Baghdadi’s demise was more likely to result in a cut up inside Islamic State.
“The cut up in IS is inevitable, it all the time occurs when any radical spiritual group loses a charismatic chief,” he mentioned.
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.
Iraqi state tv broadcast night-time footage of an explosion and daytime photos 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 providers had situated Baghdadi’s whereabouts and had handed the knowledge to america.
Trump mentioned eight helicopters carried the U.S. particular forces troops to the compound the place Baghdadi was hiding, the place they had been met with gunfire earlier than blasting their means in by means of the partitions to keep away from a booby-trapped most important door.
The U.S. forces spent round two hours within the compound, he mentioned, including that that they had taken away “extremely delicate materials and knowledge”.
Russia “handled us nice” by opening up airspace it managed for the raid and Kurdish allies gave some useful info, in line with Trump. The Russian protection ministry, nonetheless, mentioned it was not conscious of any help to U.S. forces.
The president mentioned he watched the operation unfold within the State of affairs Room of the White Home.
The army named the operation in opposition to Baghdadi after U.S. assist employee and hostage Kayla Mueller, U.S. nationwide safety adviser Robert O’Brien informed NBC’s “Meet the Press”. In 2015, U.S. officers informed Reuters here Mueller had been repeatedly raped by Baghdadi himself earlier than she died in Islamic State custody earlier that yr.
RELIEF FOR A GRIEVING FATHER
On the peak of its energy, Islamic State dominated over tens of millions of individuals in territory working from northern Syria by means of cities and villages alongside the Tigris and Euphrates valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Hundreds of civilians had 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 brought on worldwide revulsion by beheading overseas nationals from international locations together with america, Britain and Japan.
In a single infamous incident, referred to by Trump in his TV tackle, a captured Jordanian air pressure pilot was burned alive in a cage.
On Sunday the pilot’s father, Safi Al-Kasaesbeh, informed Reuters TV he was relieved by information of Baghdadi’s demise.
“I’m proud and completely satisfied on this present day, 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 additionally the Muslim nation, who distorted the picture of Muslims and Islam,” he mentioned.
The group has claimed accountability 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 nearly all of its territory, turning Baghdadi right into a fugitive.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Phil Stewart; Extra reporting by Khalil Ashawi in Syria, Katanga Johnson in Washington, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Ahmed Rasheed and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad, Samia Nakhoul, Ellen Francis and Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul and Reuters TV; Writing by Jason Neely and Alex Richardson; Modifying by Frances Kerry