President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a 10-minute speech followed by roughly 40 minutes of answering questions from reporters. In his remarks at the White House, the president recounted al-Baghdadi's gruesome last moments, praised the U.S. forces who chased the terrorist down, and provided remarkable details of the military operation from start to finish.
Here are some highlights from his remarks:
- "Last night the United States brought the world's No. 1 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 al-Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing him has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring night-time raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it."
- The ISIS leader "died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, 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. 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 them 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."
- "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, and 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."
- "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — Baghdadi and the losers who work for him, and losers they are, had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies. In other cases, they were hard-core killers. They killed many people."
- "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. It was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it along with the general, Vice President Pence, and others, in the Situation Room. We watched it so clearly. ... I don't want to say how, but [it was] as though you are watching a movie."
- "From the first day I came to office, and now we are getting close to three years, I would say 'where is Baghdadi? I want him.' We would kill terrorist leaders but they were names I never heard of. ... they were not the big names."
- ISIS is "very smart. They are not into the use of cell phones anymore. They are technically brilliant. They use the internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump."
- al-Baghdadi "died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming, and crying. Frankly I think it is something that should be brought out so his followers and all of these young kids that want to leave the various countries, including the United States, they should see how he died. He did not die a hero, he died a coward. Crying, whimpering, and screaming and bringing three kids with him to death."
- "We spoke to the Russians. We told them we are coming in. They said, 'thank you for telling us.' ... We told them we thought they would be happy. They hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. They did not know the mission but they knew we were going over an area where they had a lot of firepower."
- "We notified some" congressional leaders, "others are being notified now as I speak. We were going to notify them last night but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like nothing I've ever seen before. There is no country in the world that leaks like we do. Washington is a leaking machine. ... I don't want to have them greeted with firepower like you wouldn't believe. We were able to get in, it was top secret. ... A very small group of people that knew about this. We had very few people. A leak could have caused the death of all of them."
- "If you read about the history of Donald Trump, I was a civilian. I had nothing to do with going into Iraq and I was totally I always used to say 'if they are going to go in' — I'm sure you have heard this — 'if they are going into Iraq, keep the oil.' They never did."
- "Hamza bin Laden was a big thing, but this is the biggest there is. This is the worst ever. Osama bin Laden was very big but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole — as he would like to call it — a country, a caliphate. And was trying to do it again."
- On if he could hear al-Baghdadi crying on his feed of the raid: "I don't want to talk about it. He was screaming, crying, and whimpering. He was scared out of his mind."
- "I also want Hamza bin Laden because he's a young man around 30, looks just like his father, tall, very handsome, and he was talking bad things just like his father."
- "You know, if you read my book, there was a book just before the World Trade Center came down. And I don't get any credit for this but that's OK. I never do. But here we are. I wrote a book, a really very successful book and in that book about a year before the World Trade Center was blown up, I said there is somebody named Osama bin Laden, you better kill him or take him out, something to that effect, he's big trouble. Now, I wasn't in government. I was building buildings and doing what I did but I always found it fascinating. But I saw this man, tall, handsome, very charismatic making horrible statements about wanting to destroy our country. And I'm writing a book. I think I wrote 12 books. All did very well. And I'm writing a book, World Trade Center had not come down. I think it was about, if you check it was a year before the World Trade Center came down. And nobody heard of al-Baghdadi. And no one heard of Osama bin Laden until really the World Trade Center. But about a year, a year and a half before the World Trade Center, before the book came out, I was talking about Osama bin Laden, you have to kill him, you have to take him out. Nobody listened to me. And to this day I get people coming up to me and they said you know what, one of the most amazing things I've seen about you is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center. It's true. Most of the press doesn't want to write that but it is true. If you go back and look at my book, I think it's 'The America We Deserve.' I made a prediction — let's put it this way, if they would have listened to me, a lot of things would have been different."
Of note, Trump made just one passing reference to bin Laden in that book, published in January 2000.