ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, President Trump confirms

The world’s most wanted terrorist was killed in a U.S.-led raid in northwestern Syria.
/ Source: NBC News

The world’s most wanted terrorist, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a U.S.-led raid in northwestern Syria, President Donald Trump announced Sunday.

Addressing the nation live from the White House, Trump said al-Baghdadi killed himself and three of his children, detonating a suicide vest as U.S. forces closed in after a "dangerous and daring" raid.

"He was a sick and depraved man," Trump said, "and now he's gone."

Reports of his death had swirled on social media, with the president himself appearing to hint at the the news late Saturday.

Trump personally approved the operation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A U.S. Special Ops mission targeted the ISIS leader near Barisha, Syria, overnight, sources told NBC News.

The mission included helicopters, jets and U.S. drones, the sources said.

The U.S. fired from the air and then landed and gathered intelligence, the sources said. Several others were also killed in a convoy. There were no reports of U.S. casualties.

The news comes amid growing concerns around ISIS' potential resurgence and following the president's decision to pull troops from Syria's border in advance of a Turkish invasion.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — a key ally in the fight against the extremist group who accused Trump of abandoning them to the Turkish advance — claimed a role early Sunday in the operation in which al-Baghdadi was killed.

Turkey also said that that it had exchanged information and coordinated with the U.S. prior to the operation.

NBC News has not verified the claims.

If confirmed, al-Baghdadi's death would bring an end to years of searching and speculation.

Detained by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004, al-Baghdadi has led ISIS since 2010. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.

But with a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, he had not been seen for five years.

Until April, when the group released an 18-minute video in which a bearded man resembling al-Baghdadi appeared sitting cross-legged on the ground with an assault-style weapon propped up against a wall and praised terrorists who carried out Easter bombings of churches in Sri Lanka.

For years, reports have circulated questioning whether al-Baghdadi is alive.

Some reports have claimed that he was killed in U.S. ordered-drone strikes, while others said he was hiding out in remote regions of Syria or Iraq.