ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, said US President Donald Trump in a televised address on Sunday.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” said Trump.
Reports that al-Baghdadi had been killed in northwest Syria surfaced earlier on Sunday morning.
Citing sources familiar with the operation, Newsweek had reported that members of the Joint Special Operations Command received “actionable intelligence,” which led them to carry out a special operations raid targeting the ISIS leader in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that the compound where al-Baghdadi was located in the Barisha village in Syria’s Idlib was taken out with an airstrike. Turkey, a NATO ally backing local insurgents, was not notified prior to the operation, the official added.
The state Iraqi News Agency cited security sources as saying that eight US helicopters targeted al-Baghdadi’s hideout early Sunday.
CNN cited a US defense official as saying that al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during the raid. They also reported that the final confirmation as to whether al-Baghdadi was actually targeted is pending while DNA and biometric testing is conducted.
Two of al-Baghdadi’s wives were also killed during the US raid after detonating their own explosive vests, Newsweek reported citing Pentagon sources.
President Donald Trump reportedly approved the operation nearly a week before it took place.
Officials from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkey, and Iraq all claimed to have been involved and assisted the US in the operation.
“There has been intelligence work on the ground for five months, and a thorough pursuit until terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was eliminated through this joint operation. We thank everyone who contributed to this great work,” tweeted SDF commander Mazloum.
“Prior to the US Operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place,” the Turkish defense ministry said in a tweet. It did not give details.
Iraqi intelligence learned al-Baghdadi’s location and passed it on to the US after arresting an Iraqi man and woman from al-Baghdadi’s inner circle, an Iraqi intelligence official claimed on Sunday.