Islamic State’s leader is dead but the terror group ‘is expanding’

The threat from Islamic State is not finished, despite the death of its leader in a US military operation.

That was the warning from experts after US President Donald Trump confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on Sunday in Syria.

Chris Costa, a former senior director for counter-terrorism for the National Security Council in the Trump administration, said: “The bottom line is: This puts the enemy on its heels, but the ideology – and this sounds so cliched – it is not dead.”

Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the house homeland security committee, said: “While the death of its leader is a tremendous blow for the group, about 10,000 ISIS fighters remain in the region and will continue to carry out guerrilla attacks and seek new territory.”

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi became a feared preacher of hate.
What does Baghdadi death mean for IS?

Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on ABC’s This Week: “Our job is to stay on top of that and to make sure that we continue to take out their leadership.”

Experts have said that Islamic State is growing in numbers outside Syria, expanding its affiliate in Afghanistan and moving in to Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Mr Trump said on Sunday that US special forces had conducted a “daring raid” which lasted around two hours, during which a large number of al Baghdadi’s companions were also killed or captured.

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Al Baghdadi killed himself and three of his children during the operation by setting off a suicide vest, he added.

“He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down,” said the US president.

“He ignited his vest, killing himself and his three children.

“His body was mutilated by the blasts. The tunnel had caved on him.”

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been working for five months as part of a joint operation to eliminate Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its commander said on Sunday (October 27).
Exclusive footage of IS leader’s site

Test results from the aftermath of the raid confirmed the deceased was the Islamic State leader.

Mr Trump revealed that Kurdish intelligence helped the operation and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it had worked with the US on a “successful” mission.

Donald Trump with VP Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, left; Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US Army General Mark A. Milley, and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans
Image: Donald Trump inside the White House situation room with officials watching the raid

Iraq’s military said its national intelligence service had located al Baghdadi and told the US of his whereabouts.

Mr Trump also thanked Russia for opening up their airspace, despite them not knowing the nature of the US mission.

Al Baghdadi was one of the world’s most wanted criminals, with a bounty of $ 25m (£19.5m) on his head.

Al Baghdadi, who led IS for the past five years, was seen in the summer of 2014 in the pulpit of the Nouri mosque in Mosul.

He oversaw a shift away from large-scale attacks towards smaller acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prevent.

Iraqi state television aired on Sunday (October 27) footage of what it said was a U.S. raid in Syria that reportedly killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Aftermath of raid on al Baghdadi

In 2015, he was reportedly severely injured in an airstrike in western Iraq.

He has also been heard in a number of audio messages to followers, including an 18-minute speech given earlier this year.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The death of Baghdadi is a significant milestone in the coalition’s work to defeat Daesh [IS] but it is not the end of the threat.

“Daesh has imposed terrible suffering on innocent civilians. The UK will continue to work with our international partners to bring this to an end.”

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