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The American president, Donald Trump, confirmed on Sunday the end of the elusive leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, assuring that he died "like a dog", in a bold night raid by US special forces in northwestern Syria.
Trump made the announcement in a televised speech from the White House where he explained that US forces killed a "large number" of Islamic State militants during an operation that culminated in cornering Bagdadi in a tunnel, where he detonated a suicide vest.RELATED
"He detonated the vest and killed himself," Trump said.
"He died after finding himself in a dead end tunnel, moaning and crying and screaming all the time," the president added, detailing that three of Baghdadi's children died in the explosion.
Donald Trump said the operation, which required flying more than an hour by helicopter from a base whose location was not revealed, was achieved with the help of Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
The special forces "executed a dangerous and bold night raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission with great style," he added.
At its peak, the Islamic State controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared state known as the caliphate, which is characterized by the brutal imposition of a Puritan version of Islam.
In addition to oppressing people under its control, the Islamic State planned or inspired terrorist attacks throughout Europe, while using its social media experience to attract a large number of foreign volunteers.
It was a war of years, in which the jihadist group became known for its mass executions and creepy hostage killings, before the last portion of the caliphate territory in Syria was taken in March.
The death of Baghdadi is a great impetus for Trump, whose abrupt decision to withdraw a small but effective deployment of US forces from Syria caused fears of a possible regrouping of the remaining members of the Islamic State.
Trump received a storm of criticism, even from his own Republican Party, generally loyal, for the departure of the troops.
Always true to his taste for the show, Trump announced on Saturday night, with an enigmatic tweet, that he would make "a very important announcement."
"Something very big just happened!"
As indicated on Sunday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), which has a large network of informants on the ground, US commands were left by helicopters in the province of Idlib (Syrian northwest), in an area where "groups were located" close to IS. "
Eight helicopters fired on a house and a car on the outskirts of Barisha, the UK-based OSDH said, but relies on a network of sources within Syria for its information.
The operation ended with the death of nine people including an IS leader named Abu Yamaan, as well as a boy and two women, he said.
An AFP correspondent was able to see on the outskirts of Barisha the housing of a charred minibus, destroyed by bombing.
An inhabitant contacted by the AFP in this area said he had heard helicopters and then aircraft attacks a few minutes after midnight.
"The planes were flying at a very low height, causing great panic among people," Ahmed al Hassaui, a displaced person in one of the informal camps near Barisha, told AFP.
Turkey, which has been conducting an offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDS) in northwestern Syria in recent weeks, had "prior knowledge" about the operation, said a senior Turkish official.
"As far as I know, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi came to this place 48 hours before the raid," said a senior Turkish official.
Mazlum Abdi, head of the SDS dominated by Kurdish fighters, said on Twitter that the operation was the result of a "joint information with the United States."
Trump also said that Turkey had been "very good" in the operation.
He said there were no wounded American soldiers, despite "shooting a lot" and "many explosions." The only American victim was a military dog in the tunnel.
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