Trump approves Special Ops raid targeting ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘DEAD after setting off his own suicide vest’ during a US Special Ops raid on his Syrian lair following a five-year manhunt

  • Major ISIS target, believed to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly killed in Syria
  • U.S.-led forces in Idlib, Syria descended on the ISIS leader’s lair, reports suggest
  • Early reports suggests Baghdadi may have detonated his suicide vest in the raid 
  • Donald Trump plans to make a ‘major statement’ at the White House at 1pm GMT
  • Al-Baghdadi issued a chilling call to arms in 2014 declaring an Islamic ‘caliphate’ 
  • Under his leadership, smaller-scale higher-frequency attacks became the norm 
  • The Westminster and Manchester Arena terrorist attacks were both linked to ISIS

The leader of the Islamic State militant network is believed to be dead after being targeted by a US military raid in north-west Syria.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of a self-declared caliphate, is thought to have detonated his own suicide vest during the targeted raid on his lair in Syria’s Idlib province. 

Officials say confirmation that the ISIS chief was killed in the explosion is pending, with President Trump is set to make a ‘major statement’ at the White House at 1pm on Sunday (GMT). 

The ISIS leader has been among U.S. and Europe’s force’s most wanted figures since his chilling call to arms in 2014, which saw a shift away from the mass casualty attacks carried out by al-Qaeda in favour of smaller-scale acts of violence. 

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Caliphate leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is thought to have detonated his own suicide vest during the targeted raid on his lair in Syria’s Idlib province. He is shown in a still from a video released in April, having not been seen since he spoke at the Grand Mosque in Mosul in 2014

Syrians ride a motorcycle past a burnt vehicle near the site where a helicopter gunfire reportedly killed nine people near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly among those who died in the attack 

Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaeda, al-Baghdadi encouraged smaller-scale acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prepare for and prevent.

He encouraged jihadists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill where they were using whatever weapon they had at their disposal, resulting in a series devastating attacks in the UK and Europe.

His words inspired more than 140 terrorist attacks in 29 countries other than Iraq and Syria, resulting in the deaths of at least 2,043 people, CNN reports.

Al-Baghdadi led ISIS for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a barbaric reputation for beheadings and horrific executions. 

These recordings, often noted for their high production values, were distributed online along with the ISIS propaganda magazine Dabiq.  

He remained among the few ISIS commanders still at large despite multiple claims in recent years about his death and even as his so-called caliphate dramatically shrank, with many supporters who joined the cause either imprisoned or jailed.  

With a £19.5 million ($25m) bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi had been far less visible in recent years, releasing only sporadic audio recordings, including one just last month in which he called on members of the extremist group to do all they could to free ISIS detainees and women held in jails and camps.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an attack carried out by a squadron of eight helicopters accompanied by a warplane.

The attacks were on positions where ISIS  operatives were believed to be hiding in the Barisha area north of Idlib city, after midnight on Saturday-Sunday.

It said the helicopters targeted ISIS positions with heavy strikes for about 120 minutes, during which jihadists targeted the helicopters with heavy weapons. 

The Syrian Observatory documented the death of nine people as a result of the coalition helicopter attack, adding that the death toll is likely to rise due to the presence of a large number of wounded.

The strike came amid concerns that a recent American pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled. 

The purported audio was his first public statement since last April, when he appeared in a video for the first time in five years.

In 2014, he was a black-robed figure delivering a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, his only known public appearance.

He urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

‘It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you,’ he said in the video.

‘I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.’              

Reports suggest that al-Baghdadi, the elusive militant who has been the subject of an international manhunt for years, had been killed in Idlib, Syria

The reported death of such a high-value US target comes amid a difficult political backdrop fro Trump, who has been frustrated heavy media focus on the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, which he calls an illegitimate witch hunt.

He has also faced withering criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike for his U.S. troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria, which permitted Turkey to attack America’s Kurdish allies.

Trump was expected to make the statement in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, which he has used to make a number of major announcements.

Just last week he used the same room to announce that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds had taken hold.

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