ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. raid in northwestern Syria, President Donald Trump announced during a Sunday morning nationally-televised address. “Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 27, 2019
According to the president, al-Baghdadi was pursued by United States special forces and American military dogs into a tunnel where he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing, killing himself and three children. A test on-site confirmed al-Baghdadi’s identity.
“He died like a dog,” Trump said. “He died like a coward.”
Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq for their assistance and cooperation in the search for al-Baghdadi and subsequent raid.
Kurdish fighters also came forward and claimed they played a role in al-Baghdadi’s death, saying it was a joint operation. Mazloum Abdi, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander in chief, said on Twitter Sunday that the search for al-Baghdadi included a “joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring,” and he thanked President Trump in the tweet. SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali also tweeted about the operation, calling it a “successful and effective operation by our forces.”
For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi.
— Mazloum Abdî مظلوم عبدي (@MazloumAbdi) October 27, 2019
Successful and effective operation by our forces is yet another proof of SDF's anti-terror capability. We continue to work with our partners in the global @coalition in the fight against ISIS terrorism. #DefeatDaesh
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) October 27, 2019
In his speech, Trump said that no U.S. personnel died during the operation but that “a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him.” Two soldiers received minor injuries, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, adding that they both have returned to duty.
“This is a great day for America, this is a great day for the world,” Esper said on ABC’s This Week.
JUST IN: Sec. of Defense Mark Esper after Pres. Trump announced death of ISIS leader: "This is a great day for America, this is a great day for the world." https://t.co/BTQGGTXVs3 pic.twitter.com/Zucd8SrqXg
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 27, 2019
The president hinted at the ISIS leader’s death, tweeting Saturday night that, “Something very big has just happened!” but defense officials were concerned that he was getting ahead of himself, as forensic DNA testing had not yet confirmed al-Baghdadi’s identity at the time.
Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
Although significant, experts caution that killing al-Baghdadi does not signify a defeat of ISIS. “The danger here is that President Trump decides once again to shift focus away from ISIS now that its leader is dead,” Jennifer Cafarella, research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, told the New York Times. “Unfortunately, killing leaders does not defeat terrorist organizations. We should have learned that lesson after killing Osama bin Laden, after which Al Qaeda continued to expand globally.”