The United State media on Sunday reported that Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was believed to be dead after a US military raid in Syria’s Idlib region.
The ISIS leader may have killed himself with a suicide vest as US special operations forces descended, media reported.
Government sources stated that Baghdadi was the target of the secretly planned operation that was approved by President Donald Trump.
ABC News reports that biometric work was underway to confirm the identification of those killed in the raid.
The White House announced Trump would make a “major statement” Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (1300 GMT), without providing details.
Trump earlier tweeted, without explaining, “Something very big has just happened!”
Baghdadi, a native of Iraq and around 48 years old, led Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, taking credit for suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Shiites and moderate Sunnis that left thousands dead over 2010-2013.
He then broke with Al-Qaeda and announced his own, more aggressive jihadist group named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (alternately, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) that aimed to establish its own deeply conservative Islamic nation, or Caliphate, on territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border.
The group’s rule was notoriously brutal, and it was globally condemned as a “terrorist organization,” blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians — in summary executions and beheadings — and accused of war crimes.