U.S. special forces launched an attack last morning on the building where it was located in northwestern Syria.
He had already been given up for death several times in previous years. Both Russians and Americans had worn the medal on more than one occasion. But Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), always ended up reappearing and denying everyone.
A fugitive for two years -since the IS began to fall and be defeated in Syria and Iraq-, Al Baghdadi, at times graceful, at other times hairy, survived all attempts to assassinate him.
Until this Sunday: “Tonight the United States has done justice to the world’s greatest terrorist. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is dead. He has died at the end of a tunnel, cornered and crying, screaming and sobbing,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement made with as much pomp as possible in the face of news like this. One year after the US elections, Obama had his Bin Laden; Trump, Al Baghdadi.
“He was a violent and bloodthirsty man, and he has died violently and bloodthirsty. He died as he was: a dog and a coward. And now the world is a better and safer place. God bless America,” Trump said.
In the early hours of the morning
The president has assured that eight helicopters and an undetermined number of U.S. special forces participated in the operation conducted in northwestern Syria. Al Baghdadi was hiding with his two wives, children, and personal guard in shacks in the village of Barisha, located in the Syrian rebel province of Idleb and controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda in Syria.
It may seem strange, but they did not protect him: HTS and IS have been rivals and enemies for years; the leader of HTS, in fact, celebrated the death of his rival this Sunday, although he regretted that those who managed to do so were the “infidels and not the fighters of the true faith”, that is, his own.
In the attack, in addition to Al Baghdadi, eight more people have died, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR): the family of the Jihadist leader, his guard and some high officials of the IS. None of them are American, according to Trump, who has also confirmed the capture of several Daesh militants. Al Baghdadi, whose death has been confirmed by the Americans after subsequent DNA analysis, was blown up with a belt of explosives so as not to be captured while trying to escape through a tunnel. He was, at the time, surrounded by his family.
Iraqi and Kurdish Intelligence
The operation would have had the indispensable help of the Iraqi government and the Kurdish militias, the YPG, which Trump left two weeks ago, according to the interested parties themselves. Trump also thanked Russia and Syria for their cooperation. The leader of the Kurdish group assured on Sunday that his intelligence had been following the trail of Al Baghdadi for five months, who, it is believed, escaped at the last moment when the IS was cornered in southeastern Syria in March this year.
Our sources in Syria,” an Iraqi official told Reuters, “confirm the success of the operation after we discovered his hideout while he was trying to get his family to cross into Turkey from Idleb.
Al Baghdadi’s death puts an end to his more than nine years at the head of the Islamic State, an organization he helped found as a split from al-Qaeda in Iraq after spending a period in US prisons in the Arab country. It was in those same prisons erected during the invasion of George Bush, prisons of infamous names such as Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, where he recruited the cadres who would lead the Islamic State.
The cleric, however, would not become world-famous until the summer of 2014, when, in a mosque in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, live to the world, he declared the birth of the Islamic State as a country, proclaimed himself as the caliph of all Muslims and asked his parishioners around the world to move to Syria and Iraq to fight, die and kill for their leader and religion. An estimated 100,000 people answered the call.
The death of Al Baghdadi, however, is by no means the end of the Islamic state. The Jihadist group, although depleted and without territory under its control, continue to have tens of thousands of followers all over the world and cells in Iraq and Syria that constantly launch attacks against their rivals and the civilian population.
Its disappearance comes at the full withdrawal of US forces from Syria, a decision that has generated enormous rejection in Washington, where Trump is accused of having abandoned his Syrian-Kurdish allies and sacrificed US geostrategic interests in the region, leaving it to the mercy of Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Faced with criticism from across the political spectrum, Trump has slightly modified its plans to leave a small contingent of troops in the country in charge of “protecting” the oil facilities.