Russian airstrike may have killed IS leader in Syria, says Defense Ministry

Saturday, 17 Jun, 2017

It added: "According to information that is being checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting".

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an airstrike late last month, Moscow said, in what would be a devastating blow for the terror group as it clings to its remaining enclaves in Iraq and Syria. In an e-mailed statement, Army Col. Ryan Dillon said: "We can not confirm these reports at this time".

Cover: A boy poses while showing one of the fake US 100 dollar banknotes depicting Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (L) and al-Nusra Front's leader Abu Mohammed al-Joulani (R), that were dropped by Syrian army jets in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria December 27, 2015.

The report of al-Baghdadi's death comes as the group suffers major setbacks in which it has lost wide areas of territory and both of their strongholds - Mosul in Iraq and Syria's Raqqa.

As both USA coalition forces and the Russian, who are backing the Syrian government against ISIS and other rebel forces, have committed to the destruction of ISIS, civilians have been caught in the crossfire since the militant group seized territory in both Iraq and Syria in 2014.

In 2010, al-Baghdadi became the leader of the Daesh of Iraq (ISI), affiliated with al-Qaeda (both terrorist organizations banned in Russia), following the death of its head Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

The United States said it could not immediately confirm whether Baghdadi, the undisputed leader of global jihadism, was dead.

The U.S. side was notified in advance on the time and location of the Russian air force operation, it said.

Since he appeared in a video in Mosul announcing the caliphate, Al-Baghdadi has been rarely seen and often on the move between hiding places in Iraq and Syria.

USA officials said they could not immediately say whether the Russian strike had killed Baghdadi.

It said the military began planning the hit after receiving word that IS leaders, including al-Baghdadi, were gathering to discuss the militant group's withdrawal from Raqqa.

One high-profile IS supporter on the messaging app Telegram shared a post denying the news and saying that when an IS leadership figure is killed, the group does not hide it. There were also reports in May and June of this year that he had been badly wounded or killed. In March 2017, USA defense officials said he left Mosul before Iraqi forces began their offensive to remove the group from Iraq's second-largest city. The US is offering a $25m (€22.3m) reward for information leading to his death or capture.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which is a nom de guerre, was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al Samarrai.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the battlefield situation through a network of activists on the ground, recorded no Russian air strike on May 28, according to the group's head Rami Abdurrahman.