Jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man, was believed Sunday to have been killed in a US special operation in northwest Syria.
The elusive chief of the Islamic State group was thought to be dead after a US military raid in the Idlib region, US media reported early Sunday.
The White House announced President Donald Trump would make a “major statement” Sunday at 9:00 am (1300 GMT), without providing details.
A war monitor said US helicopters dropped forces in an area of Idlib province where “groups linked to the Islamic State group” were present.
The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha in Idlib province, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women, but it was not immediately clear if Baghdadi had been in the area, it said.
An AFP correspondent outside Barisha saw a minibus scorched to cinders by the side of the road, and windows shattered in a neighbour’s house in rural land dotted with olive trees.
A resident in the area who gave his name as Abdel Hameed said he rushed to the place of the attack after he heard helicopters, gunfire and strikes in the night.
“The home had collapsed and next to it there was a destroyed tent and vehicle. There were two people killed inside” the car, he said.
US media cited multiple government sources as saying Baghdadi may have killed himself with a suicide vest as US special operations forces descended.
He was the target of the secretly planned operation that was approved by Trump, officials said.
The commander-in-chief of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who have been fighting IS in Syria said the operation came after “joint intelligence work” with American forces.
Ankara also said it had coordinated with Washington before the raid.
“Prior to the US Operation in Idlib Province of Syria last night, information exchange and coordination between the military authorities of both countries took place,” the Turkish defence ministry said in a tweet.
From the outskirts of Barisha, an inhabitant of a camp for the displaced also heard helicopters followed by what he described as US-led coalition air strikes.