(JTA) — The leader of the Islamic State terror organization is dead.
President Donald Trump announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a nationally televised White House news conference on Sunday morning.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist to justice,” Trump said.
Baghdadi “died like a dog and a coward” during a U.S. Special Ops raid in Syria, the president said. He blew himself up with a suicide vest after getting cornered in a tunnel. Trump said an on-site DNA test concluded that it was Baghdadi. Three children accompanying him, said to be his own children, also died in the blast.
Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and the Syrian Kurds for their assistance in the mission.
The Islamic State, or ISIS, has not made a statement about the alleged death. Baghdadi has been mistakenly reported killed in the past.
Trump said the U.S. knows who the successors of Baghdadi are and that they are “already in our sights.”
The announcement comes less than a month after Trump withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria.
Trump on Saturday night tweeted “Something very big has just happened!”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Hebrew video message congratulated Trump on the “impressive accomplishment that lead to the elimination of the head of Daesh al-Baghdadi,” he said using the Arabic term of Islamic State. “This reflects our shared determination, of the U.S. and all the free countries to fight terrorist organizations and terrorist states. This accomplishment is an important milestone, but the campaign is still ahead of us.”
Blue and White head Benny Gantz also praised the operation. “The fight against terrorism requires a combination of responsibility, patience and determination to act when called upon,” he said in a statement. “The assassination of the ISIS leader in Syria yesterday perfectly reflects that combination. This is an important operational and intelligence achievement by the United States military, led by President Trump. ”