The fugitive leader of the Islamic State (IS) group has been killed in a US military operation in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump has said.
Speaking from the White House, Mr Trump said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest during a raid by special forces late on Saturday.
Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a “caliphate” in areas of Iraq and Syria.
IS carried out a number of atrocities that resulted in thousands of deaths.
The jihadist group imposed a brutal rule on almost eight million people in the areas under its control and was behind a number of attacks in cities around the world. The US declared the “caliphate” defeated earlier this year.
In an unusual Sunday morning statement, Mr Trump said US special forces executed a “daring night-time raid” and accomplished their mission in grand style.
“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way, Mr Trump said. “The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
No US soldiers had been killed but a number of Baghdadi’s followers also died, Mr Trump said, adding that “highly sensitive material and information” had been gathered.
Who was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Baghdadi, whose real name was Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, had a reputation as a highly organised and ruthless battlefield tactician. He was described as the world’s most wanted man.
He was born near Samarra, north of Baghdad, in 1971, and reports suggest he was a cleric in a mosque in the city around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.
Some believe he was already a jihadist during the rule of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Others suggest he was radicalised during the time he was held at Camp Bucca, a US facility in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.
Baghdadi emerged in 2010 as the leader of an umbrella group that included al-Qaeda in Iraq, and rose to prominence when IS militants captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, when he declared the creation of a “caliphate”.
That was the only time Baghdadi was seen in public. He reappeared in a video released by IS earlier this year.
In October 2011, the US officially designated him a “terrorist” and offered a reward of $10m (£5.8m at the time) for information leading to his capture or death. This was increased to $25m in 2017. BBC News