From the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Baghdadi was hit as he left his hiding place in Idlib, travelling by minibus to the nearby village of Barisha. To evade arrest, he detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three of his children.
President Trump offered a number of details about the operation to kill Baghdadi, which he claims was an event “bigger” than the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Baghdadi’s orders were behind thousands of killings across Syria and Iraq.
During his press conference, Trump thanked Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Russia and the Syrian Kurds for their cooperation.
The raid that killed the intellectual and at times operational leader of the Islamic State comes amidst criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Washington for the President’s abrupt decision to pull out U.S. troops from northeast Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish invasion against Kurdish forces.
The announcement brought a wave of praise from senior Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham who had previously criticized the President. Senate majority leader Republican Mitch McConnell also applauded the news and expressed his gratitude for the President’s leadership.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said al-Baghdadi’s killing “marked a turning point” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labelled the event as an “impressive achievement.”
French foreign minister Florence Parly cautioned that the fight against ISIL will continue, a view that was echoed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.