In a Sunday morning address from the White House, President Donald Trump announced that the single most-wanted terrorist in the world had been killed during a U.S.-led military operation in Syria.
“Last night,” Trump said, “the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
Trump said the ISIS founder had killed himself as U.S. forces closed in on his position. He characterized al-Baghdadi choosing the coward’s way out, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was chased down a tunnel by American military dogs. Al-Baghdadi compounded the ugliness of the suicide by taking three children with him when he detonated his suicide vest.
“His body was mutilated by the blast,” Trump noted in the speech, saying that U.S. tests had nonetheless confirmed that al-Baghdadi was dead.
Al-Baghdadi, unlike his spiritual predecessor Osama bin Laden of rival terrorist group Al Qaeda, was a near-total recluse, counting on his relative avoidance of the spotlight to keep him safe from U.S. justice. The ISIS founder gained international infamy in 2014 when his terrorist group went from a little-known offshoot of Al Qaeda into a global terrorist powerhouse.
With recruits from more than 100 countries, the Islamic State – sometimes known as ISIL or Daesh – began quickly launching attacks around the world and, unlike Al Qaeda, taking territory for their so-called caliphate. With designs on transforming the entire Middle East into an Islamic State under their control, ISIS took wide swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq before the U.S. and her allies began fighting back in earnest.
Under Obama, airstrikes in Syria began slowly whittling away ISIS’s claimed territory. But it was not until President Trump took office that the handcuffs were taken off immensely powerful U.S. military capabilities, and before long the writing was on the wall for the fate of ISIS. The liberation of Mosul, Raqqa, and other major ISIS strongholds drove the terrorist group underground and decimated their numbers.
Still, al-Baghdadi, despite numerous false reports of his demise, managed to stay hidden and alive.
Until Saturday night, that is.
Working off intelligence that placed al-Baghdadi in the Idlib Province, U.S. Special Operations commandos launched a raid into terrorist territory that wound up finally bringing down the man responsible for thousands of deaths over the last five years.
“He died like a dog,” Trump said Sunday. “He died like a coward.”
And good riddance to him.