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“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” Trump said in a speech to the nation Sunday morning.
The ISIS leader’s death came in a successful U.S. military operation in northwest Syria Saturday night that took roughly two hours.
The Islamic State leader detonated an explosive vest as U.S. Special Operations Forces stormed his compound in the Idrib Province. Trump said he died whimpering at the back of a dead-end tunnel.
He also said the U.S. had al-Baghdadi under surveillance for weeks.
Trump said the U.S. had been searching for al-Baghdadi for years, calling his capture or death “the top national security priority of my administration.” Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Kurds in the region.
“No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. recovered “highly sensitive” materials related to ISIS. “You are the very best anywhere in the world,” Trump later said of the U.S. forces.
Trump said al-Baghdadi died while being chased down by U.S. forces in a tunnel, and that the ISIS leader was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” He then detonated a suicide vest, killing himself. Trump said three children who were with al-Baghdadi were also killed in the blast. Eleven other young children were taken out of the location uninjured, Trump said.
“Our reach is very long,” Trump said. He pointed to the recent death of Hamza bin Laden, son of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “These savage monsters will not escape their fate, and they will not escape the final judgment of God.”
Trump said “Baghdadi and the losers who work for him” had “no idea what they were getting into.”
Al-Baghdadi reportedly had a $25 million bounty on his head. Some experts had predicted that as time passed and ISIS losses in the Middle East mounted, it was inevitable that al-Baghdadi would be captured or killed.
“The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said. “God bless America.”
Trump was heavily criticized by Democrats and Republicans for withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria earlier this month, with one concern being that it would allow ISIS to regain strength in the region.
“We don’t want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years,” Trump said, but said he intends to secure the oil in the region, which could strengthen ISIS.
Trump defended his decision to pull out of northern Syria, saying that it benefits Russia and China, who can build their military while the U.S. expends resources.