The US military conducted a special operations raid targeting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. His death is still pending further verification, but senior Pentagon officials say they have “high confidence” that the high-value target killed was Baghdadi.
Newsweek was the first to report the news. It also reported that US President Donald Trump sanctioned the mission nearly a week before it took place.
The White House announced that the president would make a “major statement” at 1300 GMT. A tweet from the president confirms that something of significance has taken place.
Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
If confirmed, this will be the highest-ranking terrorist leader to be killed or captured since Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011.
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that there was a brief firefight when US forces entered the compound and that Baghdadi then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Family members were present. According to Pentagon sources, no children were harmed in the raid but two of Baghdadi’s wives were killed, possibly by the vest detonation.
The raid was conducted by members of a team from the Joint Special Operations Command.
Baghdadi is an Iraqi national who became active in the Islamist insurgency against US forces following the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was held by US forces in the detention centres of Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca.
He went on to join Al-Qaeda, rising up the ranks of the group as it merged with others to form the Islamic State of Iraq and eventually inherited its leadership in 2010, when his predecessor was killed in a joint US-Iraqi operation. He renamed the group to ISIS in 2013, seeking to expand to neighboring Syria.