WASHINGTON, United States — US President Donald Trump on Monday publicly introduced Conan, the dog that became a hero for its role in the US raid that led to the death of Islamic State terror group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“The dog is incredible,” Trump said at a brief ceremony as the Belgian Malinois sat beside him with a handler. Also present were First Lady Melania Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence.
“So brilliant, so smart. Conan did a fantastic job,” Trump added.
Conan, a Belgian Malinois, seemed much more interested in the head scratches it was getting from Pence, repeatedly looking up at the vice president in search of more attention.
In the raid last month, Conan chased Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel in his Syrian hideout, where the cornered IS leader detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and two children, according to the US account.
Conan was injured by the electric cables exposed in the detonation but seems to have made a full recovery.
“Conan was very badly hurt, as you know. They thought maybe he was not going to recover. He recovered actually very quickly and has since gone on very important raids,” Trump said.
Despite the president referring to the dog as male, multiple reports have said Conan is female.
Trump bestowed a medal on Conan and presented the dog with a plaque.
Trump said initially Conan was going to be muzzled for the appearance, but then said he thought that would put the dog in attack mode.
“He’s not in a bad mood today,” Trump told dozens of reporters, cameramen and members of TV crews gathered in the Rose Garden. “So you’re safe.”
Trump said he asked members of the US special forces who met with him Monday if an unarmed man would stand a chance against Conan. He said the special forces, who could not appear in public, told him “No.”
“Conan is really a hero,” Pence said, patting the dog on the head.
The dog’s identity had been a closely guarded secret until it was declassified by Trump, who retweeted a picture of the pooch after the raid at Baghdadi’s lair.
Details about Conan’s life, achievements and family background are scant, although he certainly comes from good stock: US Navy SEALs used a Belgian Malinois in the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The head of US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, has said Conan was a “critical member of our forces” and mentioned his impressive record of 50 combat missions in four years of service.