(CBS) — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) who once controlled a vast swath of territory and tens of thousands of fighters, is believed to have been killed in Syria, sources told CBS News. Al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest after a firefight with U.S. Special Operations forces in Idlib province near the Turkish border, two sources said.
The White House said late Saturday that tweeting that “something very big has just happened!”” Sunday at 9 a.m. ET. Mr. Trump appeared to hint at the news Saturday night,
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said the raid took place at a compound at about 12:30 a.m. local time to the west of the town of Barisha, a mountainous area about 25 miles west of Aleppo overlooking the Turkish border. The group said the area is a hotbed of activity for an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
SOHR said eight U.S. gunships and a fighter jet fired on targets in the area for about two hours, with messages blasted over loudspeakers in Arabic urging those in the compound to surrender. The group said nine people were killed, including two women and a child. Eyewitnesses told the group that two people were alive when the operation was over and were taken away on U.S. helicopters.
Iraqi state television broadcast footage purporting to be from the scene, showing extensive rubble and craters.
The Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), the Kurdish group that has fought alongside U.S. forces against ISIS, hailed the operation on Sunday.
“Successful& historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America,” said General Mazloum Abdi, the SDF commander.
Iraqi and Turkish officials said both countries had shared intelligence with the U.S. prior to the raid.
Al-Baghdadi, who has rarely been seen in public, appeared in a video in April for the first time in five years. The video, released by ISIS’ media network, showed al-Baghdadi with a bushy grey and red beard and seated with a machine gun next to him. That was his first video appearance since 2014, when he delivered a sermon at the al-Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
In December 2016, the U.S. State Department raised its reward to $25 million for information on al-Baghdadi, making him one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
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