ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed on Saturday during a U.S. military operation in northwestern Syria.
President Donald Trump confirmed the news of Baghdadi’s death during a Sunday morning press conference.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump began. “He was the founder and leader of ISIS ― the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.”
Speculation had been rife in the hours leading up to Trump’s announcement as to whether Baghdadi, who’d been in hiding for the last five years, had been killed in the U.S. assault.
Trump appeared to hint at the news in a cryptic tweet, saying on Saturday night without elaboration that “something very big just happened.”
As the leader of the so-called Islamic State group since 2010, Baghdadi oversaw its expansion from an extremist group under the umbrella of al Qaeda into a sprawling international terror organization.
ISIS took over large parts of Iraq and Syria under Baghdadi’s leadership, and claimed numerous deadly terror attacks across the world. But in recent years ISIS has essentially gone back underground after losing nearly all the territory it seized. Much of its core leadership has been captured or killed, and it no longer occupies any major cities.
Baghdadi’s death is a major blow to the group and leaves no obvious immediate successor.