WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump said Tuesday morning that the Islamic State member in line to replace Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist organization who was killed Saturday, has also been killed by U.S. troops.
“Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops,” Trump tweeted. “Most likely would have taken the top spot – Now he is also Dead!”
The president did not name the terrorist who was reportedly killed.
Trump held a press conference Sunday to detail the raid of al-Baghdadi’s hideout on the Syrian-Tukey border the day before, saying no American troops were killed during the operation. The president said that al-Baghdadi had detonated a bomb vest at the dead end of a tunnel within his compound, killing himself and three of his children. His remains were buried at sea.
“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,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.”
An Islamic State spokesperson, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, was also killed the same day in a separate operation, according to senior defense officials.
Many lawmakers had no advance knowledge of the al-Baghdadi raid, with Trump saying during the press conference that he had only let select members know the raid was taking place. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during an unrelated news conference Sunday he had only learned about the operation after Trump’s televised announcement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was also left in the dark on Saturday’s raid and said in a statement Sunday her office was relieved no Americans were killed during the operation. The death of al-Baghdadi did not mark the death of the Islamic State group, she said.
“Cores of ISIS fighters remain under uncertain conditions in Syrian prisons, and countless others in the region and around the world remain intent on spreading their influence and committing acts of terror,” Pelosi said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a televised interview Monday that not letting members of Congress know about the operation was imperative to the safety of Special Forces. U.S. troops had been long tracking al-Baghdadi and the Trump administration wanted to ensure the safety of those involved, he said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Monday that al-Baghdadi’s death was a devastating blow to the remnants of the terrorist group. He also lauded Trump’s decision to approve the operation as “bold,” saying the president was aware of the possible lack of success when authorizing the raid.