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Trump confirms ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in US military raid

Baghdadi ignited an explosive vest after being chased into a tunnel by US forces.

Updated Oct 27th 2019, 1:32 PM

abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-is-leader-appears-in-first-video-in-five-years Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last appeared in a propaganda video in April Source: SalamPix/ABACA/PA Images

ISLAMIC STATE LEADER Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, US President Donald Trump has confirmed, after a US military raid in Syria’s Idlib region.

Al-Baghdadi was the target of the secretly planned operation that was approved by Trump, who said that no US personnel were lost in the mission.

In a press conference, the president said al-Baghdadi ignited an explosive vest after being chased into a tunnel by US forces. Trump said the terrorist leader had taken three of his children into the tunnel with him and they were also killed in the explosion. 

He said al-Baghdadi ran into the tunnel “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way”. 

The US special forces accomplished their mission “in grand style”, he told reporters, adding “US personnel were incredible, I got to watch much of it.”

A senior Iraqi security official told the Associated Press that Iraqi intelligence played a part in the operation, although Trump claimed that only US forces were involved during a press conference at the White House.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syria war monitor, reported an attack carried out by a squadron of eight helicopters accompanied by a warplane belonging to the international coalition after midnight on Saturday.

ISIS operatives were believed to be hiding in the area, it said, adding that helicopters engaged in heavy strikes for about two hours, during which jihadists fired at the aircraft with heavy weapons.

The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women, it added.

Established Caliphate

Al-Baghdadi, a native of Iraq and around 48 years old, led Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, taking credit for suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Shia and moderate Sunni Muslims that left thousands dead over 2010-2013.

He then broke with Al-Qaeda and announced his own, more aggressive jihadist group named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS).

His group aimed to establish its own deeply conservative Islamic nation, or Caliphate, on territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border.

The group’s rule was notoriously brutal, and it was globally condemned as a ‘terrorist organization’, blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians – including executions and beheadings – and accused of war crimes.

files-the-leader-of-the-islamic-state-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi Al-Baghdadi makes his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city Mosul in 2014 Source: SalamPix/ABACA/PA Images

However, al-Baghdadi was rarely seen in public.

After 2014 he disappeared from sight, before resurfacing in a video in April this year with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” for IS members who had been killed.

It was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that, while it had lost its physical territory, had spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa, promoting the violent ideology he preached.

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But al-Baghdadi remained on the run as the US-led coalition slowly destroyed IS and focused on tracking down the leadership.

The US State Department posted a $25 million (€22.5 million) reward for information on his whereabouts.

Under al-Baghdadi, the State Department said, IS “has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States”.

- © AFP 2019 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Associated Press.

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