ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi killed himself during a raid by the U.S. military on October 27. U.S. President Donald Trump announced his death in a televised address at the White House the following Sunday morning, reports The New York Times.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said in the address. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
The raid was a culmination of a five-year international manhunt involving both Western and Arab intelligence agencies. They searched for Al-Baghdadi, the man who plunged regions of Syria and Iraq into a horrific reign of terror filled with some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity. Following an extreme interpretation of the Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam, the Islamic State under Baghdadi justified their mass executions and beheadings as necessary to fulfill their aspiration to establish a worldwide caliphate.
Baghdadi’s whereabouts were finally pinned down as Iraqi and U.S. intelligence managed to acquire tips about his location from several sources ranging from informants to local enemies, reports Reuters. However, it was the capture and questioning of one Baghdadi’s closest aides, Ismael al-Ethawi, that that gave them the biggest clue about his whereabouts.
In his address, Trump went on to describe how the radical leader was chased by the U.S. “military dogs” until he reached the end of a dead-end tunnel. Baghdadi was “whimpering and screaming and crying” all the way as he tried to evade capture, Trump said.
Finally, seeing no possible escape, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and his three children that accompanied him, Trump said. The operation was named after Kayla Mueller, an American humanitarian worker who was captured, abused, and killed by Baghdadi, as reported by AP News.
According to CNN, the President also reported that there were no casualties on the U.S side, though there were several ISIS fighters and companions who were killed in the operation. The body count also included two women wearing suicide vests and three children. However, eleven children were removed from the house Baghdadi was staying in and were uninjured, Trump said. “He died like a dog,” Trump said in the address. “He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.”
Even though Baghdadi’s death is a significant victory in the war against terrorism, it does not imply that ISIS is going to dissolve without his leadership. In fact, ISIS has already named a new leader, after confirming the death of Baghdadi, says Al Jazeera. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the new chief of the Islamic State, announced his succession Thursday on ISIS’ media arm, al-Furqan, pledging revenge for Baghdadi’s death.
However, it should be noted that the nature of ISIS means that it does not depend on a specific leader to execute its ideology. While the leader stands as a powerful inspiration for the follower, often taken to be as the “leader of Muslims”, he just stands to be the face of a movement that depends on more than just a figure to pursue its extremist agenda.
In a quote to The New York Times, Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on extremist groups, explains how, unfortunately, Baghdadi’s death might have less impact than one would have hoped for. “For sure it is important, but we know from what we have seen from other organizations that getting rid of the leader does not get rid of the organization,” Hanieh said, “ISIS has created a new structure that is less centralized, and it will continue, even without al-Baghdadi.”