After a life dedicated to terrorism, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying,” Donald Trump said. Here’s how the operation to kill the jihadist chief unfolded, according to the US president.
Where did it happen?
The Iraqi terrorist leader died during a raid on his safe house in the village of Barisha in Idlib province, northwestern Syria. The house is situated in one of the last areas of the country that is not controlled by the Syrian government. Trump revealed that Russia opened up its airspace to allow US special forces to carry out the raid.
When did it happen?
The two-hour operation took place on Saturday night. “US special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in north-west Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House.
How did it go down?
Trump said US forces were met with “massive firepower” as they arrived at the building where al-Baghdadi was hiding with his family and associates. “The compound had to be cleared at this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed,” he said, adding that 11 young children were moved out of the house uninjured.
After the house was cleared, the militant fled down a tunnel with three of his children where he killed himself and the children by setting off a suicide vest before he was hunted down.
“He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three children. His body was mutilated by the blasts. The tunnel had caved on him,” Trump said.
The leader of the so-called Islamic State was then positively identified by DNA tests 15 minutes after he died. “He was a sick and depraved man and now he’s gone,” Trump added.
How many died?
While exact figures have yet to be provided, Trump said “many” of al-Baghdadi’s people were killed in the raid. He said that US forces suffered no personnel losses, with the only injury being to a military dog. He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq for their support in completing the mission.
Even before Trump’s announcement, videos started appearing online claiming to have been made at the site of the US operation. They showed rubble, craters from bombs in the ground and destroyed vehicles, but their authenticity couldn’t be verified.
Iraqi television also posted footage of what it said was the actual attack on al-Baghdadi’s compound. However, the video only captured explosions in night shot from a long distance.