President declares al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, is dead

President Donald Trump announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, elusive leader of the terrorist organization, was dead after U.S. special forces tracked him to a compound and cornered him in a tunnel, where he detonated a suicide vest.

President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive leader of the Islamic State, was killed in a U.S. special operations raid launched in Syria.

Trump said during a Sunday morning White House press conference that al-Baghdadi “died like a dog” after being chased down a dead-end tunnel by American commandos and U.S. military canines.

The ISIS leader dragged three children into the tunnel before detonating his suicide vest — killing himself and the kids, Trump said.

Al-Baghdadi’s last moments alive were spent in “panic and dread” as the ISIS leader was “terrified of the American forces bearing down on him," and he died “whimpering and crying and screaming” like a coward, Trump told reporters Sunday.

This file image made from video posted on a militant website April 29, 2019, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, being interviewed by his group's Al-Furqan media outlet. (Al-Furqan media via AP, File)
This file image made from video posted on a militant website April 29, 2019, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, being interviewed by his group's Al-Furqan media outlet. (Al-Furqan media via AP, File)

The American commando raid targeted the ISIS leader in the al-Qaida infested Idlib Province, Syria, near the Barisha area not far from the border with Turkey.

A number of ISIS fighters were killed during the operation.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are reporting the death of a senior al- Bagdadi associate named Abu Hesen al Mouhjir, who they say was targeted in a village named Ein al Baat near Jaraboul city.

Officials from Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve would not confirm that.

“We are aware of SDF reports,” the task force responded via email. “The coalition supports all efforts to disrupt and defeat ISIS senior leadership. For reasons of operational security we have no additional comments.”

How it went down

Trump said at least eight helicopters were involved in the raid and no American troops were wounded. A military working dog that was in the tunnel with al-Baghdadi was injured, he said.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on the ABC Sunday morning show “This Week” that troops were mostly ferried to the objective by CH-47 helicopters and that the ground force consisted of less than 100 troops.

American troops took fire from local forces as they flew to the compound housing the ISIS leader, Trump detailed. American forces “terminated” the threat from the air “immediately,” he said.

The “daring nighttime raid” by American commandos was carried out in “grand style,” Trump said.

While on the ground, American special operators blew holes in the side of the compound — avoiding the main entrance the U.S. commandos knew was booby-trapped, according to Trump.

Esper told ABC that U.S. forces conducted a tactical call-out as a number of women and children were on the objective.

American commandos remained on the target site for roughly two hours gathering valuable intelligence, Trump explained to reporters.

The reported residence of the former ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is seen in this Sept. 29, 2019, satellite image of northwestern Syria near the village of Barisha. (Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
The reported residence of the former ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is seen in this Sept. 29, 2019, satellite image of northwestern Syria near the village of Barisha. (Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)

Following the operation, Esper told ABC that U.S. aircraft destroyed the compound after U.S. forces were off the target site.

A source in the region told Military Times that he saw a Delta Force task force launch aircraft from near Ain Issa, Syria, around 2 a.m. local time Friday. Esper said on the ABC Sunday morning show that Trump had green-lighted a heliborne raid on Friday.