Donald Trump (L) and (R) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Donald Trump (L) and (R) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Fugitive Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a US military operation in northwest Syria, US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday.

Speaking from the White House, Trump said al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest during a raid by special forces late on Saturday, the BBC reported.

US special forces executed a "daring night-time raid" and accomplished their mission in grand style, he said.

"He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him," Trump said.

No US soldiers were killed in the operation but a number of Baghdadi's followers also perished with him, he added.

How the operation went down

Giving details Trump said Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks, and 2-3 planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched. He said the US flew over certain Russian airspace during the mission and that he watched it live – like a movie – from the Situation Room.

He said no US Service members were hurt during the operations.

Speaking at the White House on Sunday morning, President Trump said the ISIS leader spent his last moments "whimpering and crying and screaming" in a dead-end tunnel before he blew himself up, killing also his three children.

Trump said the US Special Operations forces conducted the "daring and dangerous nighttime raid and "accomplished their mission in grand style".

"Last night the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-baghdadi is dead," Trump said.

"He was the founder and leader of ISIS. The most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration," he said.

"He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him," Trump said.

No US troops were killed in the operation, but a number of Baghdadi's followers also died, the President said, adding that "highly sensitive material and information" had been gathered.

"He died like a dog. He died like a coward," Trump said of Baghdadi.

Despite being hunted by the world's best intelligence agencies and the US authorities offering a whopping USD 25 million reward for information leading to his capture, Baghdadi has proved to be incredibly elusive.

Baghdadi joined Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which merged with other Islamist groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq. He became the group's leader in 2010 after his predecessor was killed by US forces.

He renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, widely known as ISIL or ISIS in 2013 and announced his "caliphate" in 2014.

Kurds call it a joint op

Syria's top Kurdish commander on Sunday said his forces had contributed to intelligence work that paved the way for a US operation against Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," Mazloum Abdi said in a post on social media.

In an earlier post, the head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that was the US's main local ally in years of battles against IS in Syria, described the operation as "historic".

Officials in Washington said a military operation had targeted IS chief Baghdadi overnight in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, but stopped short of confirming he had been killed.

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