President Donald Trump declared Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend.
"Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead," Trump said at the White House, calling the ISIS leader's removal "the top national security priority of my administration."The President said a US special operations forces mission went after the ISIS leader and there were no US deaths during the operation.Several ISIS fighters and companions of Baghdadi were killed, including two women wearing suicide vests and three children. Trump would not provide a specific number of casualties, only describing those targeted on scene as "more dead than alive." Eleven children were moved out of the house and are uninjured, the President said.The death of Baghdadi marks the culmination of a years-long hunt to find one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the man who declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. But it also comes as the US military is pulling back in Syria, a move analysts warn could allow for an ISIS resurgence.But Trump insisted Baghdadi's demise had nothing to do with the US's recent decision to pull out of northern Syria. "No, the pullout had nothing to do with this. In fact we found this out at a very similar time," Trump said. "No, we're after these leaders, and we have others in site."
'He died like a coward'
The President said "immediate" and "totally positive" test results proved it was Baghdadi, saying a lab technician on the scene of the raid confirmed the ISIS leader's death."He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place," Trump said.Trump described the situation, saying the ISIS leader "spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him."The President said US forces obtained "highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS — origins, future plans, things that we very much want."Trump told reporters Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks and that two to three planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched.The US flew over certain Russian airspace during the mission, he said.
Key Democrats not informed of raid
The President said he informed a few members of Congress of the raid ahead of his announcement, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump said he did not inform key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Trump said a leak of the raid could have cost American lives.Pelosi's office confirmed to CNN's Manu Raju there was no notice given ahead of the raid to it."This month, the House passed a joint resolution on an overwhelmingly bipartisan 354-60 basis which rejects President Trump's green-lighting of Turkish aggression into Syria against our Kurdish partners, and calls on him to present a clear strategy to defeat ISIS," Pelosi said in a statement issued Sunday. "The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance, and on the Administration's overall strategy in the region. Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington."Schumer said at an unrelated press conference in New York City Sunday that he learned about Baghdadi's death by seeing it on television."I didn't know. I saw it on TV," Schumer said. When asked for his reaction to the news, Schumer added, "My reaction? Look, it's great that we've gotten al-Baghdadi and killed him. He's a dangerous man, an evil man. The fight against ISIS has to continue."Trump said it was a "very dangerous mission," regarding flying in and flying out. He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Syrian Kurds for helping in the mission.But the Russian military on Sunday questioned the official US account of the raid, saying it was not aware of any US military operations in the region.During the mission, he said, US service members were met with local gunfire, which was eliminated.