WASHINGTON (AP)- A U.S. military raid in Syria resulted in the death of the Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The shadowy leader who presided over the Islamic States global jihad had become arguably the world’s most wanted man.
In a national address, Trump described a nighttime airborne raid in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, with American special operations forces flying over heavily militarized territory controlled by multiple nations and forces. No U.S. troops were killed in the operation, Trump said.
As U.S. troops bore down on al-Baghdadi, he fled into a “dead-end” tunnel with three of his children, Trump said, and detonated a suicide vest.
Planning for the operation began two weeks ago, Trump said, after the U.S. gained unspecified intelligence on al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts. Eight military helicopters flew for more than an hour over territory controlled by Russian and Syrian forces, Trump said, before landing under gunfire at the compound.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the mission was to capture or kill the IS leader. While Trump had initially said no Americans were injured, Esper said two service members suffered minor injuries but have already returned to duty. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a military dog chasing al-Baghdadi was seriously wounded by an explosive blast.
Al-Baghdadi had led IS for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted tens of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into mass slaughter of opponents and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.
Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said al-Baghdadi’s remains would be dealt with in accordance with Islamic law and buried at sea in the same way that bin Laden’s were.