ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been targeted by a military operation in Syria and is said to have been killed, according to US media.
Al-Baghdadi was killed in a US military operation in northeastern Syria, CNN and ABC report, citing senior officials,
Tests are underway to formally confirm the death of the leader of the jihadist group, responsible for multiple bloody attacks around the world. According to an official quoted by ABC, he allegedly blew his jacket loaded with explosives to commit suicide.
Questioned by AFP, the Pentagon declined to comment. However, US President Donald Trump will hold a “very important” announcement on Sunday.
“The President of the United States will make a very important announcement Sunday morning at 9:00 am (13:00 GMT) from the White House,” said Hogan Gidley, spokesperson for the US executive, without further details.
US commando helicopters were used during the raid against Baghdadi. “The operation targeted senior IS leaders,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), referring to a raid near the village of Baricha in Idleb province.
Shortly before the announcement, Donald Trump earlier posted on Twitter. “Something huge has just happened!”
If the US military operation was indeed successful, it would account as the most significant raid targeting a top jihadist leader since the death of Osama bin Laden on 2 May, 2011.
This development comes at a time of intense military activity in northern Syria. The Syrian regime and its Russian ally have accelerated troop deployment at the Syrian-Turkish border, while the US announced the sending of military reinforcements to an oil zone further east under Kurdish control.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not given any sign of life since an audio recording broadcast in November 2016, after the start of the Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul in which he called for his men to fight to the point of martyrdom.
It was in Mosul that the IS leader made his only known public appearance, in July 2014, at the al-Nouri mosque.
Wearing a turban and black coat with a grizzled beard, he then called on all Muslims to pledge allegiance to him after having been appointed head of the caliphate proclaimed by his group over the vast territories conquered in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Al-Baghdadi’s real name was Ibrahim Awad al-Badri. The IS leader was born in 1971, growing up in a poor family in the Baghdad region. Passionate about football, he tried to become a lawyer before pursuing studies in theology.