Baghdadi's death "great day" for people who have suffered from cruelty of terrorism: US officials
Washington: The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the fugitive emir of ISIS, during a raid on his hideout by the US Special Forces in northwest Syria is a "great day" for America and people all across the world who have suffered far for long from the cruelty of terrorism, according to senior Trump administration officials.
Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group and arguably the world's most wanted man, killed himself during a raid by US commandos on Saturday, US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday.
The self-styled "Caliph Ibrahim" had a USD 25 million bounty on his head and had been pursued by the US and its allies since the rise of ISIS five years ago. Baghdadi was born in 1971 in the central Iraqi city of Samarra.
Baghdadi's death marks the end of a years-long hunt to find one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the man who declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Reacting to the death of Baghdadi, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said it was a major victory in the enduring mission to defeat the dreaded terror group.
Esper, who was part of a small group of officials who were aware of the top-secret operation and watched the raid live form the Situation Room of the White House, said, "This is a great day for America and a great day for the world."
He noted that the US joint special operations forces and interagency partners flawlessly executed an operation authorised by President Trump to capture or kill Baghdadi.
"As a result, Baghdadi, who led the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist movement and inspired one of the most brutal and misguided terror campaigns in modern history, is dead at the hands of the United States military," Esper said.
In a statement, the defense secretary said, "With our partners we defeated the physical caliphate of ISIS earlier this year and now its founder and leader is dead. This is a major victory in the enduring defeat ISIS mission."
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "This is a great day for United States, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and people all across the world who have suffered far too long from the cruelty of terrorism.
Baghdadi "met the fate that he long-deserved", taken down during a raid on his hideout, he said.
"While there is still work left to do to ensure ISIS's enduring defeat, Baghdadi's death follows the path of scores of other ISIS leaders that have been removed from the battlefield and can no longer commit heinous atrocities or spread their vile ideology of hatred to poison and recruit vulnerable minds.
"His evil acts of beheadings, enslavement of women, rape, torture, and pure brutality follows him to his grave," Pompeo said.
He underlined that the Trump administration came to Washington committed to applying relentless pressure on terrorists around the world.
US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, in an interview to a news channel, said 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.
"The United States has a long reach and the men and women of our armed services executed this mission flawlessly, took him down, and his colleagues that are still alive should be worried," he said.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire thanked the intelligence community and special operations forces for "bringing one of the world's most-wanted terrorists to justice".
"Their (US forces) steadfast dedication to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and abroad is unwavering," he said.
Senator Dianne Feinstein termed Baghdadi's death "a significant milestone" on the path toward defeating the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
She, however, warned, "Baghdadi's death doesn't mean the fight against ISIS is over, nor should it signal a retreat from Syria. ISIS has a worldwide network that will continue to seek to attack us, our allies and our interests. We should continue to pressure ISIS by reestablishing our alliance with Kurdish forces in Syria."
Senator Chuck Schumer said the death of Baghdadi is a great victory for the safety of US and of its allies and partners abroad.
"All Americans especially salute the special operations forces who executed this mission, the intelligence community whose work helped make this mission possible, and our foreign allies and partners, particularly the Syrian Kurds," he said.
"Despite this great victory, we must not confuse the death of this evil man with the total defeat of ISIS. There are still potentially hundreds of ISIS prisoners and sympathisers who have escaped in recent weeks. We still need a plan for how we will deal with the escaped prisoners and ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS," Schumer said.
At its peak, the ISIS controlled some 88,000 sq km of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people, and generated billions of dollars in revenue from oil, extortion and kidnapping.
President Trump's announcement on Sunday was the most significant statement of the death of a major terror leader since the then President Barack Obama revealed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's killing by US Navy Seals in Pakistan's garrison city of Abbottabad in May 2011.