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Trump announces death of ISIS leader in US raid

President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE announced Sunday that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria.

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s Number One terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said in remarks from the East Room of the White House. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

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Al-Baghdadi’s death represents a significant symbolic victory in the battle against the terror group and marks the end of a years-long effort to track down the elusive ISIS leader, who had been reported killed multiple times in the past.

Trump described the "dangerous and daring" operation in detail, saying Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest after being cornered in a tunnel by U.S. special operations forces with three of his children. Trump said test results gave “totally positive” confirmation that Baghdadi was killed.

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him,” Trump said, claiming that Baghdadi died “whimpering.”

The president also said he watched “much” of the operation in the Situation Room, though he did not go into detail. The White House later released a photo of Trump alongside Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence pleaded with military officials to 'clear the Capitol' on Jan. 6: AP The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit MORE, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe paradox of US-India relations Overnight Defense: Trump-era land mine policy unchanged amid review | Biden spending outline coming Friday | First lady sets priorities for relaunched military families initiative Biden to keep Trump-era land mine policy in place during review MORE and other military leaders in the Situation Room on Saturday.

Trump said the raid spanned two hours and concluded with U.S. forces taking “highly sensitive material” related to ISIS. Trump said no U.S. personnel were lost in the operation and that “many” of al-Baghdadi’s cohorts were killed.

Trump said he had known about the plans for the mission for three days, adding that he did not notify congressional leaders out of fear of “leaks.”

“A leak could have caused the death of all of them,” Trump said, later noting that he spoke with Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMSNBC's Joy Reid pans Manchin, Sinema as the 'no progress caucus' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-S.C.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNorth Carolina mayor Rett Newton launches Senate bid Democratic hopeful Jeff Jackson raises .3M for North Carolina Senate bid Rick Scott 'very optimistic' Grassley will run for another term MORE (R-N.C.) about the operation on Sunday following its conclusion.

The announcement will serve as a boost for Trump, who has faced scrutiny in recent weeks for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria — a move his critics argue greenlighted a Turkish military operation against U.S.-allied Kurds. Many have worried of an ISIS resurgence in the region following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has been violently eliminated,” Trump said Sunday. “He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless America.”

Al-Baghdadi’s death deals a blow to ISIS, which has already been significantly eroded by the U.S.-led coalition, though it does not mean a complete demise of the terror group.

Trump declared that al-Baghdadi’s death demonstrated the United States's “relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.”

Reports began to surface late Saturday that U.S. forces had carried out a raid in northwest Syria targeting al-Baghdadi and that the militant leader was believed to have been killed. Trump also teased a major announcement, writing on Twitter, “Something very big has just happened!”

Trump said Sunday that he sent the tweet after U.S. forces had safely returned, and that he did so to alert the news media.

Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for cooperating with the mission and recognized the Kurds for providing helpful intelligence. Trump said the Kurds did not play a military role in the operation. He also thanked U.S. forces and intelligence officials involved in the mission.

Trump also continued to defend his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, arguing it didn’t serve U.S. interests to keep soldiers on the border between Turkey and Syria.

“We don’t want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years. They’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. We’re out,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. is leaving some troops in the region to secure oil fields to ensure they don’t fall into the hands of ISIS fighters.

This breaking news report was last updated at 11:00 a.m.