Trump Says 'Coward' IS Leader Baghdadi Killed In Lightning Raid
By RFE/RL October 27, 2019
The United States says Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, has been killed in a lightning U.S. raid in northwestern Syria after being tracked for several days.
Trump, addressing the nation on October 27, said U.S. special forces conducted an overnight operation that lasted about two hours in which he said no U.S. personnel were killed.
Trump labeled Baghdadi a "coward" and a "loser," adding that the world's most-wanted man killed himself and several of his children who were with him by detonating a suicide vest.
"He was a sick and depraved man and now he's gone," Trump said.
The U.S. president said U.S. forces were in the compound where Baghdadi was staying for approximately two hours.
He said a "large number" of Baghdadi's companions were killed during the raid.
Trump said DNA tests conducted within minutes after the raid positively identified Baghdadi, who was widely believed to be holed up along the Syria-Iraq border.
The raid, code-named Operation Kayla after Kayla Mueller, a U.S. citizen taken hostage and then killed by IS, originated from an air base in western Iraq.
"Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way as a coward running and crying," Trump said, adding that Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq aided in the operation.
Baghdadi, who is originally from Iraq, has been dubbed the "most-wanted man on the planet," with the United States offering a $25 million reward for his capture. He had four children with his first wife and a son with his second wife.
In April, he appeared in a video for the first time in five years.
The video -- released by the IS media outlet Al-Furqan -- showed Baghdadi appearing with an unkempt, bushy gray and red beard while sitting on the floor against a wall. He was wearing a black robe with a light vest over it and had a machine gun near his right arm.
Baghdadi -- speaking slowly and often pausing -- said Islamic State would gain revenge for the killing and imprisonment of its fighters.
Prior to that, Baghdadi, believed to be 47 years old, had last appeared in a video while delivering a sermon at the Al-Nuri Mosque in 2014 in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which had been taken by IS forces when they swept over large swathes of Iraq and Syria. It was during that speech that he declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.
World leaders reacted quickly to the news of Baghdadi's death.
"Baghdadi: Early retirement for a terrorist, but not for his organization. We will continue the fight relentlessly against Daesh, with our partners, adapting ourselves to the new regional circumstances," French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Twitter, using another term for IS.
But his illusiveness had some waiting for further proof before officially declaring Baghdadi dead.
"The Russian Ministry of Defense does not have reliable information on the operation by U.S. servicemen … on yet another 'elimination' of [Baghdadi]," said Russian Major-General Igor Konashenkov, according to RIA-Novosti.
IS has been driven from nearly all its territory in Iraq and Syria. However, Western officials have expressed concerns that many of the thousands of IS prisoners being held by U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces could flee in the chaos amid a Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RIA-Novosti
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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