White House Diplomatic Reception Room Washington D.C. October 27 9:20 A.M. EDT
Last night, the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.
The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. Special Operations Forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it.
No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi's fighters and companions were killed with him. He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.
He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition. But test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him.
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.
We were in the compound for approximately two hours, and after the mission was accomplished, we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS origins, future plans, things that we very much want.
Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
Our reach is very long. As you know, last month, we announced that we recently killed Hamza bin Laden, the very violent son of Osama bin Laden, who was saying very bad things about people, about our country, about the world. He was the heir apparent to al Qaeda.
Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them. These savage monsters will not escape their fate, and they will not escape the final judgment of God.
Baghdadi has been on the run for many years, long before I took office. But at my direction, as Commander-in-Chief of the United States, we obliterated his caliphate, 100 percent, in March of this year.
Today's events are another reminder that we will continue to pursue the remaining ISIS terrorists to their brutal end. That also goes for other terrorist organizations. They are, likewise, in our sights.
Baghdadi and the losers who worked for him - and losers they are - they had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies. In other cases, they were hardcore killers. But they killed many, many people. Their murder of innocent Americans - James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller - were especially heinous.
The shocking publicized murder of a Jordanian pilot, a wonderful young man - spoke to the King of Jordan; they all knew him, they all loved him - he was burned alive in a cage for all to see. And the execution of Christians in Libya and Egypt, as well as the genocidal mass murder of Yazidis, rank ISIS among the most depraved organizations in the history of our world.
The forced religious conversions, the orange suits prior to
so many beheadings, all of which were openly displayed for the world to see, this was all that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - this is what he wanted. This is what he was proud of. He was a sick and depraved man, and now he's gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying.
This raid was impeccable, and could only have taken place with the acknowledgement and help of certain other nations and people.
I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. And I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us. This was a very, very dangerous mission.
Thank you, as well, to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible.
I want to thank the soldiers, and sailors, airmen, and Marines involved in last tonight's operation. You are the very best there is anywhere in the world. No matter where you go, there is nobody even close.
I want to thank General Mark Milley and our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I also want to thank our professionals who work in other agencies of the United States government and were critical to the mission's unbelievable success.
Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm another innocent man, woman, or child. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.
God bless America. Thank you.
When did you first hear that this was - operation was going to get started?
We've had him under surveillance for a couple of weeks. We knew a little bit about where he was going, where he was heading. We had very good information that he was going to another location. He didn't go. Two or three efforts were cancelled because he decided to change his mind - constantly changing his mind. And, finally, we saw that he was here, held up here. We knew something about the compound. We knew it had tunnels. The tunnels were a dead-end, for the most part. There was one, we think, that wasn't. But we had that covered too, just in case.
The level of intelligence, the level of work, was pretty amazing. When we landed with eight helicopters, a large crew of brilliant fighters ran out of those helicopters and blew holes into the side of the building, not wanting to go through the main door because that was booby-trapped. And there was something - it was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it, along with General Milley, Vice President Pence, others, in the Situation Room. And we watched it so clearly.
They had body cameras? Or how did you watch the -
Well, I don't want to say how, but we had absolutely perfect - as though you were watching a movie. It was - that - the technology there alone is really great.
A big part of the trip that was of great danger was the - it was approximately an hour and 10-minute flight, and we were flying over very, very dangerous territory. In fact, some of our leaders said that that could be the most dangerous - flying in and flying out. And that's why, last night, we were so quiet about it. We didn't say anything, and I didn't make my remark until after they had landed safely in a certain area.
But the flight in, the flight out, was a very, very dangerous part. There was a chance that we would have met unbelievable fire. Russia treated us great. They opened up. We had to fly over certain Russia areas, Russia-held areas. Russia was great. Iraq was excellent. We really had great cooperation.
And you have to understand: They didn't know what we were doing and where we were going, exactly. But the ISIS fighters are hated as much by Russia and some of these other countries as they are by us. And that's why I say they should start doing a lot of the fighting now, and they'll be able to. I really believe they'll be able to.
Read the full transcript HERE
You can visit a collection of all White House posts by clicking here.