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WASHINGTON (AP) — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided more than its international jihad and became arguably the world’s most wanted man, is believed dead right after becoming targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria.

A U.S. official told The Linked Press late Saturday that al-Baghdadi was targeted in Syria’s Idlib province. The official mentioned confirmation that the IS chief was killed in an explosion is pending. No other facts have been accessible.

President Donald Trump teased a main announcement, tweeting Saturday evening that “A thing incredibly huge has just occurred!” A White Residence spokesman, Hogan Gidley, would say only that the president would be creating a “main statement” at 9 a.m. EDT Sunday.

The strike came amid issues that a current American pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had as soon as controlled.

Al-Baghdadi led IS for the final 5 years, presiding more than its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria. He remained amongst the handful of IS commanders nevertheless at massive in spite of various claims in current years about his death and even as his so-known as caliphate significantly shrank, with lots of supporters who joined the lead to either imprisoned or jailed.

His exhortations have been instrumental in inspiring terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and in the United States. Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaida, al-Baghdadi and other IS leaders supported smaller sized-scale acts of violence that would be tougher for law enforcement to prepare for and protect against.

They encouraged jihadists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill exactly where they have been, with what ever weapon they had at their disposal. In the U.S., various extremists have pledged their allegiance to al-Baghdadi on social media, like a lady who along with her husband committed a 2015 massacre at a vacation celebration in San Bernardino, California.

With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi had been far significantly less visible in current years, releasing only sporadic audio recordings, like 1 just final month in which he known as on members of the extremist group to do all they could to cost-free IS detainees and females held in jails and camps.

The purported audio was his very first public statement due to the fact final April, when he appeared in a video for the very first time in 5 years.

In 2014, he was a black-robed figure delivering a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul’s Wonderful Mosque of al-Nuri, his only recognized public look. He urged Muslims about the globe to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

“It is a burden to accept this duty to be in charge of you,” he mentioned in the video. “I am not superior than you or extra virtuous than you. If you see me on the appropriate path, enable me. If you see me on the incorrect path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

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Linked Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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