Islamic State leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, above, was killed in a US Special Operations raid on his hideout in Idlib province in north-west Syria on Saturday night, President Donald Trump said in his address to the nation.
The US has brought the most dangerous terrorist to justice and the world is a much safer place now, Trump said.
Baghdadi “died like a dog” whimpering, crying and screaming in a dead-end tunnel in the compound where he was holed up.
The US special team flew into Syria in eight helicopters and zeroed in on the compound.
Baghdadi’s security guards opened fire on the low-flying helicopters and US forces eliminated them.
After landing, the forces raced into the hideout through the sides by blowing huge holes using heavy firepower. They avoided the booby-trapped main entrance.
The forces killed more Islamic State militants and Baghdadi’s two wives inside the hideout. In a desperate act, he ran into a secret tunnel inside the compound dragging three of his children.
As specially-trained dogs chased him towards the dead end of the tunnel, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest blowing himself up along with his three children. Part of the tunnel caved in due to the impact of the explosion.
Intelligence experts quickly got to Baghdadi by clearing the debris and conducted an onsite test to confirm his identity. This was necessary since Baghdadi had been declared dead many a time in the past.
“It was him”, Trump said.
While the number of Islamic State militants killed in the secret operation is not immediately known, US forces did not lose any personnel. A US military dog suffered minor injuries.
Eleven children rescued from the hideout are in safe hands now.
The forces collected Baghdadi’s body parts and other evidence from the hideout before heading home.
Trump said America’s reach is long. Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden was also killed by US forces.
“These savage monsters will not escape the final judgement of God,” Trump said.
Baghdadi was a sick and depraved man. Despite his vicious and violent nature, the terrorist behaved like a coward in his final moments, the president said.
While praising the military personnel and intelligence officials behind the dangerous but impeccable operation, Trump said he kept everything under wraps for the safety of men and women involved.
He thanked Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Syrian Kurds for cooperating with the US by ensuring their helicopters a safe passage in and out of Syria. None of these countries were aware of what Washington was up to.
Taking questions from journalists after his address to the nation, Trump said Baghdadi was under surveillance for two weeks. This time, the terrorist did not keep changing places. Intelligence officials were aware of Baghdadi’s hideout, its booby-trapped entrance and the tunnel.
Trump said he along with Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, chairman of Select Committee on Intelligence Richard Burr and top military officials watched the operation unfolding in Syria live as if watching a movie.
Since Washington has become a leaking machine these days, the Congress and other heads of senate committees were not alerted about the operation, Trump said.