WASHINGTON (CBS) - President Trump said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), died in a "daring and dangerous" raid by U.S. troops on Sunday, ending a yearslong manhunt for the most wanted terrorist in the world.
President Trump watching the operation to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the White House Situation Room, alongside, from left, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and Brigadier General Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations. (Photo: White House)
"Last night, the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice," the president said. "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead."
The president said he watched much of the raid from the White House Situation Room, alongside the secretary of defense and other top military and national security officials. Trump said U.S. forces engaged in a firefight and al-Baghdadi fled to a tunnel alongside three of his children. As U.S. operators and K-9 units pursued him in the tunnel, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children. Trump said al-Baghdadi was "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."
"Baghdadi and the losers who worked for him, and losers they are, they had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies," the president said. "He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless America."
No U.S. forces were killed or wounded in the raid but one U.S. dog was hurt, Trump said. He said the troops involved "accomplished their mission in grand style."
U.S. forces were able to confirm al-Baghdadi's identity on the scene, despite the fact that his body was under rubble and badly mutilated, Trump said.
The president said he did not inform congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of the raid beforehand, out of fear it would be leaked publicly. The House Intelligence Committee said it was not aware of the operation ahead of time.
The killing of al-Baghdadi comes at a pivotal time, as the president is under fire from members of both parties for his decision three weeks ago to withdraw troops from northern Syria. The Pentagon said last week that some U.S. forces would be redeployed to northeastern Syria and reinforced to protect oil fields in the region.