After American media reports stated that US forces have targeted and killed the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Turkey on Sunday claimed that there was 'coordination' between Ankara and Washington before the operation. "Prior to the US Operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place," the Turkish defence ministry said in a tweet. However, the ministry did not share any details or evidence to back up this statement.
Amid a cryptic tweet by US President Donald Trump on Saturday exclaiming that 'Something very big has just happened', US media has been claiming that US forces killed ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi during a raid. The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, in the operation which killed nine people. The story is still developing, but international media has reported that al-Baghdadi has died in the US action. This is yet to be confirmed by the US government officially. Trump is expected to make a "major statement" on Sunday at 6.30 pm (IST).
Though at minimum, a symbolic victory for Western counterterrorism efforts, al-Baghdadi's death would have an unknown practical impact on possible future attacks. He had been largely regarded as a symbolic figurehead of the global terror network and was described as "irrelevant for a long time" by a coalition spokesman in 2017.
Syrian Kurdish forces said 'joint intel' with the US had led to the operation against al-Baghdadi. Meanwhile, as per reports, Turkey was not aware of any operation on al-Baghdadi and was informed after the IS chief died. Official statements regarding this are yet to be made. Iran was informed by sources in Syria that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.
Al-Baghdadi has 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. His exhortations were instrumental in inspiring terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and in the United States. Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaida, al-Baghdadi and other IS leaders supported smaller-scale acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prepare for and prevent.