Trump confirms death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
President Trump announced on Sunday morning that shadowy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. operation in northwestern Syria.
Why it matters: A man who inspired mass murder and multinational terrorism is now dead. The killing also, ironically, underscores the importance and effectiveness of U.S. special forces stationed in Syria, a couple weeks after Trump said it was time to bring them all home and end the endless wars.
"Last night, the United States brought the world's No. 1 terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. ... U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. ... He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."— President Trump
The big picture: The Baghdadi raid demonstrates the value of continued U.S. engagement in the region, and it helps explain why Iraq’s president and others are so worried about Trump’s planned retreat.
- 🎥 See a clip of my conversation with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad on tonight's edition of "Axios on HBO."
The story began emerging late last night, with Trump tweeting at 9:23 pm: "Something very big has just happened!" Here are details from AP:
- In significant detail, Trump explained that Baghdadi, who presided over ISIS' global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, had been under surveillance for several weeks.
- Baghdadi was chased by dogs down a dead-end tunnel and detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three children that he had dragged with him, Trump said.
- Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Syrian Kurds for their assistance in the operation. Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi tweeted on Saturday night: "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. Thanks to everybody who participate in this great mission."
- The operation's success could prove a major boost for Trump. The recent pullback of U.S. troops he ordered from northeastern Syria raised a storm of bipartisan criticism in Washington that the militant group could regain strength after it had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.
The backstory, from AP: "The Islamic State group erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq's conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a 'caliphate.'"
- "Its territorial rule, which at its height in 2014 stretched across nearly a third of both Syria and Iraq, ended in March with a last stand by several hundred of its militants."