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Trump defends not informing Congress of IS raid

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base October 28, 2019 Image copyright Getty Images

President Donald Trump has defended his decision to keep the US Congress in the dark about a raid that led to the death of the Islamic State (IS) leader, citing leak concerns.

President Trump called senior House Democrat Adam Schiff the "biggest leaker in Washington".

Mr Schiff heads the House Intelligence Committee, one of three panels leading an impeachment probe against Mr Trump.

The president also suggested he might release some footage of the raid.

Fugitive IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a US military operation in north-west Syria, President Donald Trump announced on Sunday.

Mr Trump said Baghdad detonated his suicide vest after fleeing into a tunnel, chased by US military dogs.

What did Trump say on Monday?

Mr Trump called Mr Schiff a "corrupt politician" while answering questions from reporters on his way to Chicago, where he is due to attend a conference of police chiefs.

"They were talking about why didn't I give the information to Adam Schiff and his committee and the answer is I think Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington," Mr Trump said.

He added: "We all know that. I've watched Adam Schiff leak. He's a leaker like nobody's ever seen before."

Mr Trump did not provide specific evidence against the Democratic chairman, and also criticised the Democratic-led impeachment proceedings.

When asked whether he would release the footage of the raid - which he has likened to watching a "movie" - the president said: "We may take certain parts of it and release it, yes."

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Media captionMr Trump called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a 'brutal killer'

Earlier, Mr Trump had said he spoke with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Burr over the weekend, but decided not to notify congressional leaders ahead of the raid because "Washington leaks like I've never seen before".

"I told my people we will not notify them until our great people are out. Not just in, but out," he said during a news conference announcing the raid on Sunday.

What's the row about?

The Republican president's decision to not notify congressional leaders about the raid has been controversial.

Typically, the White House informs select lawmakers - known as the Gang of Eight - about classified intelligence matters.

The "gang" includes the House speaker, minority and majority leaders of both the House and Senate, as well as the chairs and ranking members of both chambers' intelligence committees.

When Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, the then-House intelligence chair, Republican Mike Rogers, said the Obama administration had kept him apprised of the situation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday issued a statement saying the White House needed to inform Congress as US allies "deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington".

She also accused Mr Trump of informing the Russians before US lawmakers about the raid. The president has said Russia was only informed that the US military was to fly over Russian-controlled areas.

Who was Baghdadi?

Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a "caliphate" in areas of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadist group IS imposed a brutal rule in the areas under its control and was behind many attacks around the world. Although the US declared the "caliphate" defeated earlier this year, IS militants remain active in the region and elsewhere.

Baghdadi's death is regarded as a major victory for Mr Trump as he faces heavy criticism from both political rivals and allies for his decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria.

No US personnel were killed but one of the dogs was seriously injured in the explosion.

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Media captionSecurity correspondent Frank Gardner: "He has symbolised the leadership of so-called Islamic State"