Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US military raid in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump confirmed.
During a press conference on Sunday, Trump said al-Baghdadi had been “under surveillance for a couple of weeks”.
According to the US president, the ISIL chief died after running into a tunnel in the village of Barisha where he detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three of his children.
In the announcement, Trump thanked Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Russia and the Syrian Kurds for their cooperation.
World reaction to the news has been divided with some leaders hailing it as a turning point in the fight against “terrorism” while some governments played down its down significance.
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Baghdadi had distorted the image of Islam, and hailed his killing by US special forces in northwest Syria.
“The kingdom appreciates the US administration’s efforts to pursue members of this terrorist organisation that distorted the real image of Islam … and committed atrocities and crimes,” said a Saudi foreign ministry source, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
“Saudi Arabia continues its efforts with its allies, especially the United States, in fighting terrorism.”
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez, said it was an important step in the efforts to combat terrorism.
He also called for “unified action” and “a comprehensive perspective that takes into
account the security, development and ideological dimensions” in the fight against armed groups.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said al-Baghdadi’s killing “marked a turning point in our joint fight against terrorism.”
Having paid the dearest price in the fight against Daesh, PKK/YPG, and other terrorist organizations, Turkey welcomes this development.
I am confident that a decisive struggle against terrorism, in line with the spirit of alliance, will bring peace to all of humanity.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 27, 2019
The Russian defence ministry reacted to the news with scepticism, saying “it had no reliable information on the US operation.”
“The Russian Ministry of Defense does not have reliable information on the US servicemen conducting in the Turkish-controlled part of the de-escalation zone of Idlib an operation on yet another ‘elimination’ of the former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov was quoted by local news agency RIA as saying.
Who was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Afghanistan welcomed al-Baghdadi’s killing as a major blow to the armed group that is expected to weaken the South Asian branch.
The emergence of an Afghan ISIL affiliate in recent years created another enemy for the country’s US-backed government, which has been fighting against the much larger Taliban insurgency since 2001.
“The Afghan government strongly welcomes the US forces’ operation that led to the death of … Baghdadi,” a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a post on Twitter. “The death … is the biggest blow to this group and to terrorism,” the spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said.
Will al-Baghdadi’s death stop ISIL?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labelled the event as an “impressive achievement.”
“This reflects our shared determination, of the United States of America and of all free countries, to fight terror organisations and terrorist states,” a statement from his office read.
“This achievement is an important milestone, but the campaign is still ahead of us,” it added.
Iran’s information minister, Mohammed Javad Azari-Jahromi said in a tweet that the killing of al-Baghdadi was “not a big deal. You just killed your creature”. The minister did not elaborate, but Iran has often accused the US of creating ISIL, without providing evidence.
Not a big deal! You just killed your creature. https://t.co/jrPuLWh5Sm
— MJ Azari Jahromi (@azarijahromi) October 27, 2019
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi described al-Baghdadi’s death as a significant step in the two countries’ “continuing war against terrorists and their ideology of hate”.
“Jordan will remain at the forefront of efforts to destroy this evil in cooperation with our partners in the global coalition,” al-Safadi wrote on Twitter.
Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa praised the move and said it was a “fatal blow to the group.”
مقتل المجرم أبو بكر البغدادي يشكل ضربة قاصمة لتنظيم داعش الارهابي . نحيي الأشقاء و الحلفاء على جهدهم و نجاحهم في العثور عليه و التخلص منه #البغدادي
— خالد بن أحمد (@khalidalkhalifa) October 27, 2019
Translation: “The killing of the criminal Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a severe blow to the ISIL terrorist organisation. We salute our brothers and allies on their efforts and success in finding him and getting rid of him.”
French Defence Minister Florence Parly congratulated the US but cautioned that the fight against ISIL will continue.
Baghdadi : retraite anticipée pour un terroriste, mais pas pour son organisation. Nous poursuivrons le combat sans relâche contre Daech, avec nos partenaires, en nous adaptant aux nouvelles circonstances régionales. 1/2
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) October 27, 2019
Translation: “Baghdadi: Early retirement for a terrorist, but not for his organisation. We will continue the fight against Daesh [ISIL] without rest, with our partners, adapting ourselves to new regional circumstances.”
“I congratulate our American allies for this operation. My thoughts today are for all the victims of the madness of Baghdadi and the criminals who have followed him.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this was “an important moment,” but also warned the battle against ISIL “is not yet over.”
The death of Baghdadi is an important moment in our fight against terror but the battle against the evil of Daesh is not yet over.
We will work with our coalition partners to bring an end to the murderous, barbaric activities of Daesh once and for all.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 27, 2019
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday the death of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an ” important step towards peace and stability” in the Middle East.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the “fight against extremism is not over.”
He reiterated Japan’s commitment to the fight against the spread of extremism around the world.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the news of al-Baghdadi’s death, describing his killing as “significant” in the fight against extremism.
“We are mindful though that the threat continues and we must remain ever vigilant and we will continue to be so ever vigilant working with our partners around the world,” the prime minister said.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Philippine general overseeing the battle against Islamic State-aligned groups in the country’s south, said he had ordered intensified monitoring and tighter security in conflict-affected areas, following the death of al-Baghdadi.
The regional military commander said that al-Baghdadi was not well known in the southern Philippines, but that his death could be exploited to encourage retaliatory attacks.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said while the ISIL leader’s death was “a blow” to the group it would be “just a momentary setback considering the depth and reach of the organisation worldwide.”
Philippine security officials have blamed IS-aligned groups for a series of deadly attacks in the country, including the five-month siege of Marawi in 2017.
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi said this achievement was a result of “joint intel cooperation.”
For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi.
— Mazloum Abdî مظلوم عبدي (@MazloumAbdi) October 27, 2019