Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State, or ISIS, was targeted in a raid led by U.S. military special operations and is believed to have been killed in the attack in northwest Syria, Newsweek first reported Saturday night.
Details: A “well-placed military source” told Fox News that a “high value ISIS target” believed to be Baghdadi was “killed by U.S.-led forces in Idlib, Syria.” A U.S. official told AP the terrorist group leader was “killed in an explosion” in the province. U.S. military sources told news outlets including CNN, ABC News, Defense One and Al Jazeera that a person believed to be Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest.
- NBC News reported that forensic testing was being conducted, but officials told the news outlet that Baghdadi was among the dead. A U.S. Army official “briefed on the results of the operation” told Newsweek that Baghdadi had died. CNN reported that the “CIA assisted in locating” him.
What they’re saying: The reports surfaced soon after President Trump posted a cryptic tweet at 9:23 p.m. saying something “very big has just happened!” and the White House said it would make a “major statement” at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
- It’s unclear whether the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was involved in the operation, but its commander Mazloum Abdi and SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali both appeared to tweet about the operation.
- The Turkish Defense Ministry tweeted Sunday, “Prior to the US Operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place.”
Why it matters: Baghdadi was regarded by many as the world’s most-wanted man. He had evaded capture for years amid tight security, per the BBC.
- Baghdadi’s reported killing comes as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry. He’s also received criticism from Democrats and Republicans his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria amid accusations he abandoned U.S. allies the Kurds to face the threat of Turkish forces.
- The U.S. had a $25 million bounty on the head of Baghdadi and if the reported operation is proven to be successful, it’d be the most significant counterterrorism raid since the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The big picture: Last month, an audio message from Baghdadi emerged in which he called on followers to redouble efforts to further the mission of ISIS in an effort to boost the extremist group after it lost control of territories in Iraq and Syria this year.
- In April, ISIS released a video of Baghdadi speaking with masked supporters about events that took place that month amid reports that he had been killed or gravely wounded.
Editor’s note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.