Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, is believed dead after being targeted by a US military raid in Syria. A US official told the AP late Saturday that al-Baghdadi was targeted in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, but confirmation that the ISIS chief was killed in an explosion is pending. President Trump teased a major announcement, tweeting Saturday night that "Something very big has just happened!" A White House spokesman would say only that the president would be making a "major statement" at 9am ET Sunday. If confirmed, the operation's success could prove a major boost for Trump in the wake of criticism over the recent pullback of US troops he ordered from northeastern Syria. Al-Baghdadi and his wife both detonated explosive vests they were wearing during the US commando operation, a senior Iraqi security official said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an attack carried out by eight coalition helicopters accompanied by a warplane on the Hurras al-Deen, an al-Qaeda-linked group, north of Idlib city, after midnight Saturday. ISIS operatives are believed to be in the area. It said the helicopters targeted ISIS positions with heavy strikes for about 120 minutes. The Observatory documented nine deaths. Al-Baghdadi's presence in the village, a few miles from the Turkish border, would come as a surprise, even if some ISIS leaders are believed to have fled to Idlib after losing their last sliver of territory in Syria to Kurdish forces in March. Kurdish forces appeared ready to portray al-Baghdadi's death as a joint victory for their faltering alliance with the US. The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, tweeted: "Successful& historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America."
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