The Trump administration has overseen a special operations raid that has successfully killed ISIS leader Bakr al-Baghdadi in north-west Syria.
Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai, is believed to have killed himself with a suicide vest as US special operations forces descended upon a compound he and his family were living in in Barisha village in Idlib province near the Turkish border, according to senior US government sources.
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The president shared the news on his Twitter account.
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“Something very big has just happened!” Trump wrote cryptically on his Twitter account before the news broke worldwide.
According to Newsweek, the compound was hit by an air strike to prevent the building from becoming a sanctuary to the ISIS leader.
Syrian journalist Mohamad Rasheed posted several videos on Saturday night capturing the historic air raids in northern Syria.
Telegraph.co.uk reports: The White House announced Mr Trump would make a “major statement” on Sunday at 1pm GMT, without elaborating.
A Pentagon official said he was “dead” pending verification. It is understood that the US was currently carrying out biometric work to formally identify those killed in the raid.
Iraq said it had helped provide intelligence that lead to the raid, and broadcast footage of what appeared to be a crater in the ground and torn blood-stained clothes nearby.
“Our sources from inside Syria have confirmed to the Iraqi intelligence team tasked with pursuing Baghdadi that he has been killed alongside his personal bodyguard in Idlib after his hiding place was discovered when he tried to get his family out of Idlib towards the Turkish border,” an Iraqi officials told Reuters.
Experts had speculated that Baghdadi was hiding out with a small number of cadres either in Anbar province in western Iraq or in the vast Badia desert in Homs in central Syria.
His presence in Idlib, the last-remaining anti-Assad opposition stronghold, will come as a surprise to some as the province is under the control of rebel groups hostile to Isil.
Sources told the Telegraph that members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Isil), the Islamist rebel group aligned with al-Qaeda and in control of much of the province, had been looking for him.
“If Baghdadi was indeed in Barisha, it will be interesting to understand how he managed to even get there (through Syria or through Turkey?), and how it was possible for him to stay there,” tweeted Michael Horowitz, a Middle East security analyst with the Le Beck consultancy.
Baghdadi, 48, appeared in a video released in April this year by Isil after the group’s territorial defeat, urging supporters to stay strong.
In September the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of Isil affiliates in other regions.
Baghdadi was the most wanted man in the world and subject to a $25 million US State Department reward for information on his whereabouts.
He remained on the run for more than five years even as the US-led coalition slowly destroyed Isil and focused on tracking down the leadership.
Baghdadi led al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, taking credit for suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Shia Muslims and moderate Sunnis that left thousands dead over 2010-2013.
He then broke with al-Qaeda and announced his own, more aggressive jihadist group named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that aimed to establish its own deeply conservative Islamic nation, or Caliphate, on territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border.
Under his watch, Isil turned into one of the brutal terrorist outfits in modern history.
Fighters came from all over the world to live in the so-called caliphate and inflicted misery on millions of people.
They are responsible for the mass rape and enslavement of the Yazidi people, of the beheading of British, American and Japanese hostages, and of numerous other war crimes.
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