WASHINGTON (CBS) — President Trump said, the founder and head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), died in a "daring and dangerous" raid by U.S. troops on Sunday, ending a yearslong manhunt for the most wanted terrorist in the world.
"Last night, the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice," the president said from the White House. "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead."
The president said he watched much of the raid from the White House Situation Room, alongside the secretary of defense and other top military and national security officials.
On "Face the Nation," Vice President Mike Pence said it was "incredible" to be able to watch the operation "in real time."
Mr. Trump said U.S. commandos engaged in a firefight for two hours and had cleared the compound when al-Baghdadi fled to a "dead-end tunnel," bringing three of his children with him. As U.S. operators and K-9 units pursued him, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children. Mr. Trump said al-Baghdadi was "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."
The president said U.S. forces were able to confirm al-Baghdadi's identity through DNA testing on the scene, noting his body was under rubble and badly mutilated. He said "large number" of fighters were killed in addition to al-Baghdadi.
"Baghdadi and the losers who worked for him, and losers they are, they had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies," the president said. "He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless America."
No U.S. service members were killed in the raid but one dog was hurt, Mr. Trump said. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told ABC's "This Week" that two service members suffered minor injuries but are already back on duty. The president said the troops involved "accomplished their mission in grand style" and collected a trove of sensitive intelligence related to ISIS.
Mr. Trump said he did not inform congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of the raid beforehand, out of fear it would leak publicly. The House Intelligence Committee said it was also not aware of the operation ahead of time.
The killing of al-Baghdadi comes at a pivotal time, as the president is under fire from members of both parties for his decision three weeks ago tofrom northern Syria. The Pentagon said last week that some U.S. forces would be to northeastern Syria and reinforced to protect oil fields in the region.
The president said the current upheaval in the region did not factor into the decision to launch the operation.
"No, the pullout had nothing to do with this. In fact we found this out at a similar time, it's a very good question, because we found this out at a similar time," Mr. Trump told reporters Sunday morning.
He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for their assistance in the operation, as well as the Syrian Kurds in the region, who were targeted in Turkey's offensive after U.S. troops began pulling out from northern Syria.