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World will not miss Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi, says Defence Secretary

US President Donald Trump said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed during a US military operation in Syria.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Al-Furqan media via AP)
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Al-Furqan media via AP)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

The Defence Secretary has said the “world will not miss” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of so-called Islamic State, who blew himself up after a US military operation in Syria.

President Donald Trump confirmed on Sunday that al-Baghdadi ran into a dead-end tunnel and ignited an explosive vest, killing himself and three of his young children after being surrounded by specialist forces.

Speaking in the White House’s Diplomatic Room, Mr Trump said IS figurehead died as “a coward, running and crying”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he welcomed the US action against what was arguably the world’s most wanted man.

“Isis is one of the most murderous terrorist organisations of our generation,” said the Cabinet minister.

“Their leaders have twisted Islam to groom thousands of people into joining their evil cause. I welcome the action that has been taken.

“The world will not miss al-Baghdadi.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The death of Baghdadi is an important moment in our fight against terror but the battle against the evil of Daesh is not yet over.

“We will work with our coalition partners to bring an end to the murderous, barbaric activities of Daesh once and for all.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was important not to “allow Daesh to glorify” its dead leader.

He said: “Following the death of Daesh’s leader, we must not allow Daesh to glorify someone who actioned such inhumane & abhorrent criminal acts.£

In a statement, Mr Raab added: “The death of Baghdadi is a significant milestone in the coalition’s work to defeat Daesh but it is not the end of the threat.

“Daesh has imposed terrible suffering on innocent civilians. The UK will continue to work with our international partners to bring this to an end.”

The family of a British aid worker executed by IS said Baghdadi’s “poisonous ideology” had not died with him.

David Haines, from Perth in Scotland, was beheaded in 2014 after being captured in Syria while working in a displaced persons camp.

The 44-year-old’s brother Mike Haines said: “Baghdadi was responsible for countless disgusting and despicable acts.

“His evil and cowardly beliefs and actions lack any humanity and caused the death of many innocent people including my brother.

“The poisonous ideology of Daesh has not died with al-Baghdadi. We must continue to work together to identify and stamp out the threat.”

Mr Trump watched the raid on al-Baghdadi’s home from the White House.

He said viewing it was “as though you were watching a movie”, according to foreign news agency Associated Press.

The president said the IS leader had been under surveillance for several weeks.

He said that during the raid, US forces “flew low and fast, and were met with gunfire at points”.

No American personnel were lost in the encounter, he said.

Tackling al-Baghdadi’s was one of the Trump administration’s top national security priorities.

The announcement came as the president has been on the receiving end of global criticism following the recent pullback of US troops from north-eastern Syria.

Critics fear the move will allow the militant group to regain strength after it had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

PA

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