While announcing the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Trump described the terrorist’s death during the U.S. raid in unusually graphic detail — repeatedly claiming that al-Baghdadi died “whimpering, screaming and crying.” But a top U.S. official who watched the raid with Trump in the White House Situation Room said he’s not sure where the president got that information.
“I don’t know what the source of that was,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon Monday.
Trump announced al-Baghdadi’s death in a televised statement from the White House on Sunday morning, a day after U.S. forces carried out the operation in Syria.
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” Trump said. “He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.
“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread,” the president added.
An actual dog used by U.S. forces in the raid was slightly wounded, officials said. Milley said the animal was treated and has already returned to active duty. (Trump declassified an image of the dog, a Belgian Malinois, but not its name.)
Trump told reporters that he watched the raid from the Situation Room as it was carried out in real time with Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Vice President Mike Pence, among others. The White House later released an official photo of the president and the top defense officials taken in the Situation Room.
“It was something really amazing to see,” the president said, adding that it was “as though you were watching a movie.”
According to the New York Times, the Situation Room had live overhead surveillance footage of the operation. But the feeds did not have audio, nor did they show what was happening in the underground tunnel where al-Baghdadi was killed.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Esper said he wasn’t sure where Trump got “whimpering” from, either.
“I don’t have those details,” Esper said, adding that the president “probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”
After announcing al-Baghdadi’s death, Trump said it was important to describe his last moments in vivid terms so as to deter would-be ISIS fighters.
“Frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out so that his followers and all of these young kids that want to leave various countries, including the United States, they should see how he died,” Trump said. “He didn’t die a hero. He died a coward — crying, whimpering, screaming.”
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