President Donald Trump, celebrating last weekend's U.S. commando raid against Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria, belittled him Monday as "a sick and depraved man and now he's dead."
Trump told police chiefs at a convention in Chicago, “He’s dead, he’s dead as a doornail, and he didn’t die bravely I can tell you that.”
The U.S. leader declared, “He should have been killed years ago, another president should have gotten him.” He claimed that the U.S. now has "tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners under tight supervision.”
Syria oil fields
Trump also said the U.S. plans to keep oil fields inside Syria worth $45 million a month in revenue, guarded by American troops, even as he has withdrawn most other U.S. forces from northern Syria just south of the Turkish border.
Trump's victory remarks about the raid came as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it is operating at a "heightened state of vigilance" following the death of al-Baghdadi, but that there are no plans to issue a National Terrorism Advisory System alert unless "we develop specific or credible threat information" to share with the public.
"Our security posture will remain agile, we will continue to mitigate and respond to the ever-evolving threat landscape," the DHS said in a statement Monday a day after Trump announced that U.S. military special forces operation in northwest Syria successfully targeted and “violently eliminated" Baghdadi.
“Last night the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice,” said Trump, speaking from the White House, explaining that the IS leader detonated a suicide vest in a dead-end tunnel, also killing three of his children.
“No (U.S.) personnel were lost in the operation,” according to Trump, but a large number of al-Baghdadi's fighters were killed and others were captured. He said the Islamic State leader, who was hiding in a tunnel tried to flee, “was screaming, crying and whimpering” in his last moments.
Buried at sea
A U.S. official confirmed to VOA that Baghdadi has been buried out at sea.
Trump said he is considering releasing parts of the video footage of the raid. “We’re thinking about it, we may," he told reporters before leaving for the Chicago speech.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the Islamic State spokesman and Baghdadi's "right-hand man," Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was also killed in the U.S. operation, which a senior U.S. State Department official confirmed.
A U.S. official told VOA the operation was staged from a base in Iraq. Trump said eight helicopters flew slightly over an hour to reach the compound.
There were also “many other ships and planes” supporting a large group of U.S. fighters who “blasted their way in so quickly” and then “all hell broke loose,” Trump said Sunday as he described the raid in detail.
Russia “did not know the mission,” Trump explained, but allowed the U.S. helicopters to fly over areas in Syria it controlled.
Trump also thanked Iraq, Syria and Turkey for unspecified cooperation and expressed appreciation to the Syrian Kurds for providing helpful information.
Initial reports of the IS leader's death were greeted with a degree of skepticism as Baghdadi's demise had previously been erroneously reported several times in recent years.
Since 2016, the United States had offered a reward of up to $25 million for information to help bring Baghdadi to justice. Only one other person, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has a reward that high.