President Trump confirmed during a national address Sunday morning that U.S. special forces killed what they say is ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northwest Syria late Saturday night. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump proclaimed, saying the mission had been accomplished in “grand style” before providing a descriptive, lurid, and typically hyperbolic account of the several-hour military operation. Trump said Baghdadi, after being chased through a series of underground tunnels in his compound, ultimately detonated an explosive vest he was wearing, killing him and three children. The blast left the terrorist leader’s body dismembered, but Trump said “they brought body parts back with them” and that DNA test results confirmed it was the ISIS leader. The president said no U.S. personnel were killed during the operation other than a military dog. “A ‘canine,’ as they call it. I call it a dog. A beautiful dog — a talented dog was injured and brought back,” Trump said.
Trump described how he watched the operation from the White House with top generals, saying it was “as though you were watching a movie.” He then proceeded to talk about the raid as if it were a movie, describing it in graphic and violent terms. “The thug that tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread,” Trump said. The ISIS leader was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” the president crowed. “He died like a dog.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the most wanted terrorist for the U.S. government after galvanizing the al-Qaida splinter terrorist group that became ISIS, launching military offensives, and taking large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. Baghdadi had been on the run for years, operating underground, avoiding mobile phones and anything that would tip off his location. During that period, ISIS grew in scope largely through internet recruitment. “They use the internet better than anybody, other than perhaps Donald Trump,” Trump said of the group’s recruiting efforts.
During a rambling question and answer session, Trump claimed credit for knowing Osama bin-Laden was America’s number one enemy before 9/11, declared the heir apparent to al-Qaida as “handsome,” and reiterated that he thought the U.S. should have confiscated Iraq’s oil reserves to, in effect, pay for the invasion of their own country. Throughout, Trump provided scattershot details of the raid that likely will allow military experts to glean sensitive details, such as where it was launched from. Trump then thanked Russia first for allowing the U.S. to flyover its territory to conduct the operation, before praising Turkey, Iraq, and the Syrian Kurds for their assistance. Trump has spent years bashing the U.S. intelligence community for doing their jobs, but acknowledged their role, saying: “Thank you to the great intelligence professionals who made this very successful journey possible.”
“Last night was a great night for the United States and the world,” Trump said.