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Trump says Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi exploded when US troops shut down

The president described what he called a "dangerous and daring" night operation by US special operations forces in northwestern Syria, including a series of shootings and a culmination in what he said was the withdrawal of Baghdad into a tunnel. There, Baghdadi, whom Trump said was "whining and crying and screaming," blew up an explosive vest, killing himself and the three young children he brought with him.

The high-risk operation dramatically brought to an end the long-running hunt that spearheaded the Islamic State's transformation from an underground rebel gang into a powerful quasi-state that scattered two states and generated copies of movement across continents.

Trump said Baghdadi, a former university professor who was once held in a US prison in Iraq, was tracked over the last two weeks to a tunnel junction in Syria's Idlib province. He said eight helicopters were involved in the operation. He said that the operation did not kill American personnel, but that fighters were killed.

The raid comes when the US is forced to adjust its position in Syria following Trump's decision to restrict the US military mission. Trump said earlier this month that he would withdraw almost all of the approximately 1

,000 troops in Syria amid a Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish troops, which were the Pentagon's main partner there, but developing plans now call for more residual force, which could mean a significant ongoing campaign.

Trump during his speech thanked for a long list of nations, including Russia and Turkey, and groups including Syrian Kurdish forces, which were the US main partner in Syria.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official, on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said that the arrests and interrogations of a number of people close to Baghdad led to his location being given to Americans. He confirmed that the whereabouts of Saturday's attack were one that was discovered by his office.

Meanwhile, Syrian defense forces led by Kurdish troops – long allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State – have indicated that they have also provided intelligence on the operation.

"There has been joint intelligence on the spot and close monitoring for five months until we have a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi," his commander-in-chief tweeted. Mozlum Abdi.

His spokesman, Mustafa Bali, followed in a tweet from his explicit statement about his participation.

'The successful and effective operation by our forces is further evidence of the anti-terrorist ability of SDF. We continue to work with our partners in the global @coalition in the fight against ISIS terrorism, "he tweeted, referring to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Trump was recently accused of abandoning the Kurds after a decision to pull back most of US forces in northern Syria, which had provided deterrence to the Turks across the border.

A senior Turkish official said that "as far as I know" Baghdadi arrived at the scene where the attack occurred 48 hours before the US military operation. An official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters said the Turkish army had been informed in advance of the attack but declined to say whether Ankara had shared the intelligence that led to the operation or whether Baghdad was dead.

An Iraqi state television channel broadcasts footage of what it calls the aftermath of the attack, showing a rocky area marked by crater and pile of clothing, as well as a distant night blast that is said to be

Islamic self-proclaimed caliphate a country that for the most part extended to much of Iraq and Syria, was largely destroyed after years of attacks by US, Syrian, Iraqi, European and other forces. But officials believe the organization remains a formidable threat, determined to regain strength.

While Baghdadi, a native of the Iraqi city of Samara, thought to have been in his mid-40s, remains a unique figure even to his followers, he called on the fighters in an audio message issued last month. to attack security forces and try to smash prisoners out of prison.

Pentagon officials warned that an Islamic State could use further cataclysms in Syria as an opportunity to organize a return. Defense Minister Mark T. Esper acknowledged last week that more than 100 fighters had escaped from the Kurdish-run prisons.

According to Javed Ali, a former senior director of the White House counterterrorism, Baghdadi's death would be a "huge blow." But like the assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in 2011, "it will not lead to a strategic defeat," he said. Ali noted that ISIS has proved resilient despite the physical loss of its caliphate. something we learned after Bin Laden's attack, another high-risk mission.

The Baghdadi raid took place outside the area where the US military began striking at Islamic State positions in Syria in 2014. and next year created a ground mission, focused campaign But in Idlib there have been cases of US attacks on military targets, including an air strike last month.

While Idlib, the only province in opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been controlled by eight years of war. a rebel group, the dominant military force is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, which is loosely linked to al-Qaeda.

Syrian rebels ousted the Islamic State from Idlib in 2014, but have been fleeing Islamic State members in recent months. etc Vince. Some are captured and executed by HTS, a fierce rival to the Islamic State.

Liz Slay in Los Angeles, Swad Mehenet in Germany, Sarah Daduh in Beirut, Karim Fahim in Istanbul, Mustafa Salim in Baghdad and Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

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