WASHINGTON (AP) — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, is believed dead after being targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press late Saturday that al-Baghdadi was targeted in Syria's Idlib province. The official said confirmation that the IS chief was killed in an explosion is pending. No other details were available.
President Donald Trump teased a major announcement, tweeting Saturday night that "Something very big has just happened!" A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, would say only that the president would be making a "major statement" at 9 a.m. EDT Sunday.
The strike came amid concerns that a recent American pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.
Al-Baghdadi led IS for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria. He remained among the few IS commanders still at large despite multiple claims in recent years about his death and even as his so-called caliphate dramatically shrank, with many supporters who joined the cause either imprisoned or jailed.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.