New York, Oct 27 : The world’s most wanted terrorist, Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, died like a coward “whimpering and crying” when cornered in a dead-end tunnel by US Special Forces in Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday.
The Special Forces flew in on Saturday night to Al-Baghdadi’s compound and blasted their way through killing his terrorists, and he ran into the tunnel with his three children pursued by the soldiers and a dog, Trump said in a special address from the White House in Washington.
When he found there was no escape, the terrorist leader set off his suicide vest killing himself and his three children and collapsing the tunnel, he said.
“Last night was a great night for the US and the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm an innocent man, woman or child.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader, to justice: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
The US President, who raised speculation about Al-Baghdadi’s killing with his Saturday night tweet, reading: “Something very big has just happened!”, revealed that US special forces executed a “daring night-time raid” in Syria’s Idlib on Saturday to accomplish their mission “in grand style”.
Baghdadi, whose real name was Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri and was born in 1971 in Iraq’s Samarra town, had announced setting up of a “Caliphate” in 2014 when his forces captured Iraq’s Mosul city. Subsequently, his outfit overran a great swathe of territory in civil war-embroiled Syria.
The self-styled Caliph, who was in his late 40s and carried a bounty of at least $25 million, presided over the brutal caliphate he set up in Syria, enforcing a fundamentalist code and killing thousands.
The IS broadcast propaganda videos of victims, including Americans, being beheaded by Al-Baghdadi’s men in a threatening message to the world.
However, as the “Calipate” he set up collapsed under attacks from Kurdish fighters backed by the US and others, Al-Baghdadi was on the run.
Trump said that the image of al-Baghdadi, whom he called a “sick and depraved man”, dying “like a dog” and “whimpering and crying” should disabuse those who look up to him.
The only casualty on the US side was a “beautiful, talented dog” that was injured in the blast when it chased him into the tunnel, he said.
The operation was watched live by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top defence and officials in the White House situation room. “We had absolutely perfect e as though you were watching a movie,” he said.
Al-Baghdadi’s death “demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organisations. Our reach is very long”, he said.
Trump said that Russia, Syria, Iraq and Turkey cooperated with the US in the operation without being told what its goal was. The Kurds provided important intelligence, he added.
This was the second time that al-Baghdadi came into contact with the US troops.
He was captured by US forces in Iraq in 2004 after the US invasion under then President George W. Bush in Iraq but was released.
Trump ordered the pullout of US troops from Syria earlier this month laying the Kurds, who had worked with the US to destroy the IS caliphate, open to attacks by Turkey, which moved into the area in northern Syria.
However, he said that he was keeping a small contingent in Syria to guard oil fields.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that Trump had always wanted to go after Al-Baghdadi and his death was a “game-changer.”
Trump also took a dig at US intelligence operatives who have been involved in investigating his presidential campaign and in setting off the impeachment hearings over his alleged attempt to involve Ukraine in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
He said that when the intelligence focused on fighting terrorism instead of other things, they brought results.
He also took a shot a Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that he did not tell her in advance about the raid because he did not want leaks that would lead to deaths of US forces.
According to Trump, eight helicopters flew low over Syrian and Russian-held territory to the IS hideout. The only gunfire they encountered were from “gangs,” he said.
Eleven children in the IS compound were safe, while two women, who were believed to be al-Baghdadi’s wives were among those killed.
Another important leader of Islamic terrorists, Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza was killed in a US operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)