Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
The United States military has conducted a special operations raid targeting one of its most high-value targets, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Newsweek has learned. President Donald Trump approved the mission nearly a week before it took place.
Amid reports Saturday of U.S. military helicopters over Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter told Newsweek that Baghdadi was the target of the top-secret operation in the last bastion of the country’s Islamist-dominated opposition, a faction that has clashed with ISIS in recent years.
A U.S. Army official briefed on the results of the operation told Newsweek that Baghdadi was killed in the raid, and the Defense Department told the White House they have “high confidence” that the high-value target killed was Baghdadi, but further verification is pending. The senior Pentagon official said there was a brief firefight when U.S. forces entered the compound and that Baghdadi then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Family members were present. According to Pentagon sources, no children were harmed in the raid but two Baghdadi wives were killed, possibly by the vest detonation.
Members of a team from the Joint Special Operations Command carried out Saturday’s high-level operation after receiving actionable intelligence, according to sources familiar with the operation. The location raided by special operations troops had been under surveillance for some time.
On Saturday night, after the operation had concluded, President Trump tweeted: “Something very big has just happened!” The White House announced later that the president will make a “major statement” Sunday at 9:00 a.m.