The leader of so-called Islamic State Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was killed in a military operation carried out by the United States, several international and U.S.-based news organizations reported early on Sunday.
LIVE: Trump expected to confirm al-Baghdadi’s death
Reuters reported that a raid had occurred targeting the reclusive figure, who has rarely been caught on camera. Newsweek cited sources saying he was killed. The U.S. military is working to confirm the death with DNA tests.
An announcement from U.S. President Donald Trump related to foreign policy is expected to come at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. He tweeted earlier that “something very big has just happened”.
The operation took place in northwest Syria, CNN reported, citing dual sources, adding that he reportedly triggered a so-called “suicide vest” and killed himself.
Al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate in 2014 as Islamic State militants took large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.
It comes as the Trump administration conducts a significant withdraw from Syria, a move that preceded a Turkish military operation into the northeast, a region dominated by Kurdish political and military control.
Kurdish forces were instrumental to a U.S.-backed international effort to drive the so-called Islamic State caliphate out of area. Some 10,000 Kurdish fighters were killed during a three year offensive.
An unexpected raid
It was United States Special Operations commandos that carried out what The New York Times reported was a “risky raid” in northwestern Syria on Saturday against what their sources described as a “senior terrorist leader”.
Another source said it was so-called Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was believed to be the target for the mission, an operation approved by President Donald Trump, U.S. commander-in-chief.
Commandos and analysts were working to confirm the identity of the terrorist who Times sources said triggered his explosive vest, committing suicide. Al-Baghdadi has been reported killed in the past but then appeared to be alive after the claimed incidents.
Several reports said the raid took place in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province, located many hundreds of kilometres from the north Syria-Iraq border where he was believed to be hiding out.