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Al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader who had a $25 million bounty on his head, died Saturday evening after U.S.-led forces raided his compound in northern Syria’s Idlib Province, where he was thought to be hiding.
Trump, who watched the operation from the White House Situation room as it played live, said the terrorist leader spent his final moments “crying, “whimpering,” and “screaming.”
“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him,” Trump told reporters late Sunday. “He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.”
He said neither the dogs nor the American soldiers died in the raid.
“Our ‘K-9,’ as they call it,” Trump said, “I call it a dog. A beautiful dog – a talented dog – was injured and brought back.”
One soldier assigned to Delta Force told the Washington Examiner, “The injury to the dog is an injury to one of us. These dogs are a special breed of courageous.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said two service members suffered minor injuries but already have returned to duty.
The U.S. forces’ use of dogs was reminiscent of the Navy SEALs’ use of a dog during the raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound in 2011 that resulted in his death.
The White House and Pentagon have not provided details about the dogs, or the status of the one injured. Ron Aiello, a retired Marine cited by The New York Times, said the dogs likely were either German shepherds or Belgian Malinois – the breed used in the raid on bin Laden.
“If they’re leading the patrol, they want a dog that is not only an explosive detection dog but on command can be aggressive,” Aiello said. “On a mission like this you want a dog that can be aggressive when necessary.”
Trump on Sunday shifted from praising the dogs in the raid to comparing al-Baghdadi to a “dog.”
“He died like a dog,” Trump said. “He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.