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President Donald Trump announced today that U.S. special forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Northern Syria. 

In a speech delivered at the White House, Trump remembered four of the group’s victims including University of Central Florida student and Floridian Steven Sotloff.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, President Trump announced on Sunday. The ISIS founder died in a U.S. special operation on Saturday.

In an address from the White House, Trump said Baghdadi died after being cornered by U.S. forces and detonating his own suicide vest. Trump said Baghdadi's remains had been positively identified.

"He died like a dog. He died like a coward," the president said.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

President Trump says that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State, has been killed after a U.S. special operations mission targeted him in northwest Syria. Trump declared that U.S. forces have brought "the world's No. 1 terrorist leader to justice."

Describing a dangerous and daring nighttime raid, the president said after eight helicopters flew across Russian airspace, U.S forces located their target and blew a hole in a wall of Baghdadi's compound, fearing the main entrance was booby-trapped.

Updated at 6:49 p.m. ET

All U.S. forces involved in the anti-ISIS fight will withdraw from northeast Syria in the coming days, according to two U.S. officials close to the conflict. Only a small garrison of U.S. troops will remain at al-Tanf near Syria's border with Iraq and Jordan.

The troops in border areas are endangered by Turkey's incursion against Kurdish-led forces. The move is a sudden change in policy by the Trump administration.

Photo by Jonathan Farmer

The Pentagon has identified three of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Syria this week.

They are Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

Japan's government has confirmed that a Japanese journalist who was reportedly taken hostage in Syria in 2015, has been freed and is now in Turkey.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono says Japanese diplomats met with 44-year-old Jumpei Yasuda at an immigration center in Antakya, in southern Turkey. Yasuda has been there since being freed on Tuesday.

Kono said Yasuda appears to be in good health.

Two cylinders that were dropped on the rebel-held Syrian city of Saraqeb in February — sending nearly a dozen people to seek medical help for nausea and other symptoms — had contained chlorine, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

After a visit to the site, the OPCW says, its fact-finding mission has confirmed "that chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon" on Feb. 4 in Saraqeb, a small city that's about 12 miles southeast of Idlib. It also used evidence that was gathered by several nongovernmental organizations.

Israel says it carried out airstrikes against dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria in what it is describing as the largest such operation it has ever conducted in the region, after it says its forces came under missile attack.

Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

The Tampa Bay region has a thriving Syrian American community that is in shock after President Trump signed an executive order suspending, indefinitely the acceptance of Syrian refugees.

Born in Damascus, Samar Hennawi moved to the United States with her family in 1984 when she was 17. She said she became a U.S. citizen as soon as she was eligible. She talked with WUSF's Bobbie O'Brien.

Radiant Hands Inc.

The Tampa Bay refugee community is confused and concerned over President Trump's executive order suspending the country's refugee program for four months and indefinitely stopping Syrian refugees from entering the country.

For many South Florida residents, the conflict between the Syrian government and rebel groups seems far off. After all, the country is about 6,500 miles from South Florida and the conflict is one of many different international conflicts shaping U.S. foreign policy and politics.

Photo courtesy of Jihad Saadeh

We first met University of South Florida student Noor Shakfeh after she spent her spring break in Syria helping at a refugee camp along the Turkish border almost two years ago.

U.S. Central Command

The United States Central Command has released unclassified video of an air strike Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, on the Jeribe West Modular Refinery in Syria.

The Islamic State militants (ISIL) reportedly earn an estimated $2 million daily from several oil fields and refineries in the region.

The Associated Press reports:

It’s been a year since American journalist Steven Sotloff was kidnapped by terrorists in Syria. In that time, Sotloff’s family here in Pinecrest has not spoken publicly. But that changed Wednesday with a plea from Sotloff’s mother.

The short but moving video message from Shirley Sotloff is addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He’s the leader of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – or ISIS – which has threatened to kill her son if the United States continues bombing ISIS targets.

Facebook

Now that U.S. officials have verified the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley by the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), attention has turned to another American journalist being held by the group.

Surplus Medical Supplies to Help Syrian Refugees

Jul 8, 2014
Wikipedia Commons

A 40-foot container with a $100,000 worth of medical supplies will be leaving Tampa on Friday. It's headed to Turkey, where it will then be distributed to field hospitals inside Syria that treat refugees and others.

USF student Noor Shakfeh, a Syrian-American, is collaborating with the non-profit Advocates for World Health (AWH) to bring a container with medical supplies, like dialysis and ventilator machines, to the Syrian American Medical Society.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

With the war in Afghanistan possibly winding down, at least when it comes to U.S. involvement, but the situation in Syria remaining in question, the timing of a recent conference at the University of South Florida on the nature of warfare was impeccable.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Derek Harvey is Director of Research and Strategy for USF’s Citizenship Initiative, which organized the conference, “Modern Warfare’s Complexity and the Human Dimension.”

“The purpose of the conference is to bring academics, think tanks, military officials, non-governmental organizations and others together who deal with conflicted societies where conflict exists or might exist, and make sure that we are learning the right lessons from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Harvey said.


Four Syrian Survivors Speak at USF

Feb 10, 2014
Jasmine Thomas

Mortar shellings, perpetual hunger, and constantly fearing for your life. These are the conditions many Syrian civilians are living through at this moment.

Four survivors of the Syrian war visited the University of South Florida on Saturday to share their stories as part of the national campaign, "Voices from Syria". The North American tour is part of a push to increase awareness of that nation's suffering.

One of the war survivors was 24-year-old Hiba Sawan, who was inspired by her father to become involved in the opposition.

Syrian Survivors to Speak at USF

Feb 7, 2014
Noor Shakfeh

Three Syrians will be at USF on Saturday to detail their survival stories of the massacres carried out by the Assad regime.

The survivors will be featured as a panel and each recount their personal experience in Syria, followed by a question-and-answer session that will include both survivors and local activists responding to inquiries from the audience.

Noor Shakfeh, a USF student and Syrian-American, stressed the importance of having non-Syrians come out to the event.

Jihad Saadeh

Last April, Florida Matters brought you the story of University of South Florida student Noor Shakfeh, a Syrian-American who spent her spring break aiding Syrian refugees on the Syrian-Turkey border.

Florida Matters – guest host Bobbie O’Brien talks with Shakfeh and her cousin who has been granted political asylum in the U.S. and is living in Florida.

International inspectors today visited three sites linked to Syria's chemical weapons program. The inspectors are to visit more than 20 sites around the country as part of a mission to destroy the country's stockpile.

But how can this be done while a civil war rages around them?

At the White House Saturday, President Obama said he would seek congressional approval before taking action in Syria.
Charles Dharapak / AP

WUSF Public Media

There’s ambivalence among some young Syrian-Americans over the possibility of the U.S. bombing targets inside Syria.

“I’m a Syrian-American who has never been to her home country of Syria, but I identify very strongly with my people there,” said Maryam Saleh, a recent University of South Florida graduate and WUSF News intern.

Saleh is struggling with the idea of having her country of birth, the United States, bomb the country of her ancestry, Syria.