US Department of Homeland Security at ‘Heightened State of Vigilance’

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it is operating at a ” heightened state of vigilance” following the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but there are no plans to issue an (National Terrorism Advisory System) alert unless “we develop specific or credible threat information” to share with the public.

“Our security posture will remain agile, we will continue to mitigate and respond to the ever evolving threat landscape,” the DHS said in a statement a day after President Donald Trump announced that  U.S. military special forces operation in northwest Syria successfully targeted and “violently eliminated” Baghdadi.

FILE – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location, in this undated TV grab taken from video released April 29 by Al-Furqan media.

“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice,” said Trump, speaking from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, explaining that the IS leader detonated a suicide vest in a tunnel, also killing three of his children.

“No (US) personnel were lost in the operation,” but a large number of al-Baghdadi’s fighters were killed and others were captured, according to Trump. He said the Islamic State leader, who was hiding in a tunnel tried to flee, “was screaming, crying and whimpering” in his last moments.  

“He died like a dog. He died like a coward,” added Trump.  

Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. President @realDonaldTrump addresses the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of ISIS. Full remarks: | More:

— Department of State (@StateDept) October 27, 2019

Baghdadi’s remains were positively identified in 15 minutes, according to Trump.  

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says IS spokesman and Baghdadi’s “right-hand man” Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was also killed in the U.S. operation. U.S. officials have yet to confirm his death.

A destroyed vehicle at the site where helicopter gunfire reportedly killed nine people near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province, Oct. 27, 2019.

A U.S. official told VOA the operation was staged from a base in Iraq. President Trump said eight helicopters flew slightly over an hour to reach the compound.

There were also “many other ships and planes” supporting a large group of U.S. fighters who “blasted their way in so quickly” and then “all hell broke loose,” said Trump.

Russia “did not know the mission,” explained Trump but allowed the helicopters to fly over areas in Syria it controlled.

Trump also thanked Iraq, Syria and Turkey for unspecified cooperation and expressed appreciation to the Syrian Kurds for providing helpful information.

Initial reports of the IS leader’s death were greeted with a degree of skepticism as Baghdadi’s demise had previously been erroneously reported several times.  

Since 2016, the United States had offered a reward of up to $25 million for information to help bring Baghdadi to justice. Only one other person, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has a reward that high.

Jeff Seldin, Carla Babb and Steve Herman contributed to this report.