US forces kill ISIS leader during raid in Syria

Baghdadi's death comes as president removes troops

Samuel Colmar

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Andrew Harnik
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is displayed on a monitor as U.S. Central Command Commander Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie speaks at a joint press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Oct. 30.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, was killed by U.S. Military forces during a nighttime raid in northwestern Syria on Oct. 26, announced President Trump in a national broadcast the next morning; the news comes following the controversial decision by Trump to remove American troops from the area.

“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said in the televised statement. “Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.”

In the broadcast, Trump stated that Baghdadi had killed himself and three of his children via suicide vest after being cornered in a dead-end tunnel by U.S. personnel.

Baghdadi’s identity was immediately confirmed through the results of an unspecified DNA test.

Trump’s claims of Baghdadi’s behavior during the raid, such as “whimpering and screaming and crying” as well as spending “his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread” have since come into question, with many wondering where he acquired the information.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who viewed the raid alongside Trump, told reporters that he could not corroborate the presidents story, saying “I don’t have those details. The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

The death of Baghdadi marks the end of a five-year international manhunt by U.S. and Kurdish forces in Syria, with Trump saying the “capturing or killing” of Baghdadi had been the “top national security priority” of his administration.

Baghdadi gained recognition in the mid 2010’s for his leading role in much of ISIS’ terrorist activity. He allegedly masterminded a suicide bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed 32 and wounded 39 others.

On the same day Baghdadi’s death was announced, spokesman of ISIS, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was killed in an American airstrike in Northern Syria.

Muhajir would have likely been Baghdadi’s replacement as leader of the Islamic State, speculated Evan Kohlmann, an American terrorism consultant.

ISIS, or the “Islamic State,” is a prominent terrorist organization with presence all throughout the Middle-East, namely in locations like Iraq and Syria, the latter being where Baghdadi, its leader of almost a decade, died.

It is currently unclear what will come next for ISIS after Baghdadi’s death, though the group claimed in a statement the following Thursday that it has since appointed a new leader, and America should “not be happy.”

The Baghdadi raid was codenamed “Operation Kayla Mueller” by the U.S. military in reference to Kayla Mueller, an American civil rights activist who was captured by ISIS members in Syria under Baghdadi’s command in 2013 and killed two years later.

Trump’s plans to remove the American forces from Syria may have complicated the raid by requiring intelligence agencies to expedite the process as troops were being dispersed from key locations; plans for the raid reportedly began this past summer.