(WASHINGTON) — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world’s most wanted man, is believed dead after being targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press late Saturday that al-Baghdadi was targeted in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. The official said confirmation that the IS chief was killed in an explosion is pending. No other details were available. The official was not authorized to discuss the strike and spoke on condition of anonymity.
President Donald Trump teased a major announcement, tweeting Saturday night that “Something very big has just happened!” A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, would say only that the president would be making a “major statement” at 9 a.m. ET Sunday.
If confirmed, the operation’s success could prove a major boost for Trump. The recent pullback of U.S. troops he ordered from northeastern Syria raised a storm of bipartisan criticism in Washington that the militant group could regain strength, after it had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.