A U.S. army official briefed on the operation told the publication that Baghdadi has died as the result of a top-secret raid, while the Defense Department has told the White House they have “high confidence” this is true as they await further verification.
The news is yet to be confirmed by President Donald Trump. However on Saturday night, shortly after the raid is said to have taken place, Trump tweeted: “Something very big has just happened!”
Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley later tweeted that the president will make a “major statement” on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 9:00 a.m.
According to the publication, Trump approved the top-secret mission over a week ago.
The news comes shortly after reports that U.S. military helicopters were seen flying over the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria on Saturday, Oct. 26.
The publication reports that members of the Joint Special Operations Command carried out the high-level operation on Saturday, after receiving intelligence.
They raided a location that had been under surveillance for some time.
It comes just two weeks after the Express reported that U.S. Special Operations task forces had intercepted messages from Baghdadi.
The task force, together with members of the British Special Forces Support Group and the British Special Boat Service, performed a covert hunt to trace the communication using voice recognition software.
Following the interception, it was reported that they were on his tail in Western Iraq.
The messages were said to be a recording between one of Al-Baghdadi’s team members to Amaq, a news agency linked to ISIS that operates on the dark web.
In the message, Al-Baghdadi is said to have asked all ISIS fighters who had been detained to rise up and fight.
Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi national and leader of the ISIS terror group since 2010, was active in the insurgency against U.S. troops following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The fundamentalist Islamic cleric has been in hiding for the last five years and was last seen in July 2014 when he spoke at the Great Mosque in Mosul.
However in April, an 18-minute video that was published by ISIS media wing Al-Furqan, showed a man claiming to be Al-Baghdadi.
In the footage, shot from an unknown location, Al-Baghdadi claimed the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, which killed 259 people, were in response to ISIS losses in its final stronghold of Baghouz in Syria.
UPDATE: This article was updated to clarify that Al-Baghdadi died during the U.S. military operation.