Saudi Arabia lauds US for Al-Baghdadi’s killing

October 28, 2019
An aerial view taken on Sunday shows the site that was hit by helicopter gunfire which reportedly killed nine people near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province along the border with Turkey, where
An aerial view taken on Sunday shows the site that was hit by helicopter gunfire which reportedly killed nine people near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province along the border with Turkey, where "groups linked to the Daesh (Iso-called IS) group" were present, according to a Britain-based war monitor with sources inside Syria. — AFP

RIYADH/WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia lauded the efforts of the United States that led to the elimination of the Daesh (so-called IS) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi on Sunday.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, an official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the government of Saudi Arabia followed up the announcement of US President Donald Trump on the success of efforts to pursue and eliminate Al-Baghdadi.

“The Saudi government appreciates the great efforts of the US administration in pursuing the members of this dangerous terrorist organization, which distorted the true image of Islam and Muslims around the world and committed atrocities and crimes that contradict the most basic human values in many countries including the Kingdom,” the statement said.

The source stressed that the Kingdom is continuing its efforts with its allies, led by US, in combating terrorism, drying up its sources and confronting its dangerous criminal ideology.

US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that Al-Baghdadi had died "like a dog" in an overnight raid by US special forces in Syria.

Trump said many Daesh militants had been killed in the raid and that Al-Baghdadi had detonated a suicide vest when he was cornered in a tunnel.

Trump on Monday said he could release segments of video from the dramatic US raid to kill A-Baghdadi in Syria. "We may take certain parts of it and release it," Trump said on departure from Washington to Chicago, where he was due to address a police officers' convention.

A report in The New York Times, quoting military and intelligence officials, cast doubt on some of Trump's descriptions, including his repeated claim that Baghdadi was "whimpering and crying" in the tunnel.

Trump said his account was based on having watched the whole raid in real time, like "a movie." According to the report, Trump would not have had access to audio of the events at the time, or have been able to see footage from inside the tunnel.

Russia too offered guarded praise on Monday after Trump announced that US forces had killed Al-Baghdadi, but world leaders warned that the fight against the militant group was not over yet.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say if the United States had told Russia about the operation in advance.

But he added: "If this information is confirmed we can talk about a serious contribution by the president of the United States to the fight against international terrorism."

World leaders and security officials welcomed Al-Baghdadi's death but said the campaign against Daesh was not over, with so-called lone wolves likely to seek revenge.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Al-Baghdadi's death was a major blow against Daesh but "the fight continues to finally defeat this terrorist organization".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We will work with our coalition partners to bring an end to the murderous, barbaric activities of Daesh once and for all."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: "This is a many-headed monster ... As you cut one off, another one inevitably arises."

In Southeast Asia, an important focus for Daesh, officials said security forces were preparing for a long battle to thwart the group's ideology.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, home to some of Asia's most organized militants, said they were braced for retaliation by Daesh loyalists, including "lone wolf" attacks by radicalized locals.

Though Al-Baghdadi's death will unsettle Daesh, it remains capable and dangerous, said Delfin Lorenzana, defense secretary of the Philippines, where the group's influence has taken a hold in its troubled Mindanao region.

"This is a blow to the organization considering Al-Baghdadi's stature as a leader. But this is just a momentary setback considering the depth and reach of the organization worldwide," Lorenzana said. "Somebody will take his place."

In their long hunt for Al-Baghdadi, Iraqi intelligence teams secured a break in February 2018 after one of his top aides gave them information on how he escaped capture for so many years, two Iraqi security officials said.

Al-Baghdadi held strategy talks with his commanders in moving minibuses packed with vegetables in order to avoid detection, Ismael Al-Ethawi told officials after he was arrested by Turkish authorities and handed to the Iraqis.

"Al-Ethawi gave valuable information which helped the Iraqi multi-security agencies team complete the missing pieces of the puzzle of Baghdadi's movements and places he used to hide," one of the Iraqi security officials said.

Iraqi security officials said Kurdish intelligence agents had exchanged information with counterparts in Baghdad on the movements of Al-Baghdadi and his aides in Syria. One of the Kurds' sources passed on a "golden tip" earlier this year.

Regional allies welcomed the operation, with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan saying it marked "a turning point in our joint fight against terrorism".

Turkey's military was in intense coordination with US counterparts on the night of the raid, a presidential spokesman said.

Egypt, which is fighting militants loyal to Daesh, said the killing of Al-Baghdadi is "an important step towards eradicating terrorism".

In the hours before Trump's announcement, sources in the region had described the raid on a compound in the village of Barisha, in Idlib province bordering Turkey, in the early hours of Sunday. — SPA/Agencies

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