WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fugitive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying” in a raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday, fulfilling what he called his top national security goal.
Baghdadi, who had led the jihadist group since 2010, killed himself by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing into a dead-end tunnel as U.S. forces closed in, Trump said in a televised address from the White House.
He was positively identified by DNA tests 15 minutes later, the president said.
“He was a sick and depraved man and now he’s gone,” said Trump, adding that capturing or killing Baghdadi had been his administration’s top national security priority.
Hours later, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, described as Baghdadi’s right-hand man, had also been killed in a separate joint raid by Kurdish-led and U.S. forces in northern Syria.
The death of Baghdadi is a severe blow to Islamic State, which has been in disarray and has no declared successor as leader yet. But the group has in the past proved resilient, continuing to mount or inspire attacks in the region and beyond despite losing most of its territory in recent years.