Fugitive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died "whimpering and crying" in a raid by US special forces in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday, in a major blow to the extremist organization.
Baghdadi killed himself during the raid by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing into a dead-end tunnel, Trump said in a televised address from the White House.
He was positively identified by DNA tests 15 minutes after he died, the president said.
"He was a sick and depraved man and now he's gone."
Trump said "many" of Baghdadi's people were killed and added that in blowing himself up, Baghdadi also killed three of his children.
US forces suffered no personnel losses, he said. He also thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for their support.
Baghdadi had long been sought by the United States as head of a militant group that at one point controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq, where it declared a so-called “caliphate.”
In recent years the group had lost most of its territory.
But while the destruction of the quasi-state that Baghdadi built has denied the group its recruiting tool and logistical base from which it could train fighters and plan coordinated attacks overseas, most security experts believe ISIS remains a threat through clandestine operations or attacks.
"The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, panic and dread, terrified of the American forces coming down on him," Trump said.
"He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three children. His body was mutilated by the blasts. The tunnel had caved on him.”
"He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming,” he added.