“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.”
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.
“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.
President 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 Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) about the operation on Sunday following its conclusion.
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.”
President Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for cooperating with the mission and recognized the Kurds for providing helpful intelligence. He 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.