Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Islamic State leader Baghdadi 'may have been killed by Russia'

Christy Curtis | 17 June, 2017, 07:30

Russia's defense ministry said it was working to verify information that al-Baghdadi, one of the world's most wanted men, had been killed when its warplanes struck an ISIS command post near Raqqa during a meeting on May 28, killing more than 300 of the terror group's fighters.

"According to information which is being checked through various channels, the leader of ISIL Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al- Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was eliminated by the strike", it said.

Speaking later in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said even he had "no 100 percent confirmation" that the ISIS leader had been successfully targeted.

Reports of al-Baghdadi's death regularly surface, but the statement Friday was the first time Russian Federation acknowledged that it may have killed him.

There have also been been several previous reports of al-Baghdadi being killed, but they did not turn out to be true. Sputnik also claimed that Syrian state television reported on Sunday that al-Baghdadi was killed in a USA -led airstrike.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on its Facebook page that it was checking information that Baghdadi was killed in the strike on the outskirts of Raqqa in Syria, launched after Russia received intelligence about a meeting of Islamic State leaders.

It said the IS leaders were discussing the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, with the military planning the airstrike after hearing that the leadership would be meeting.

But while al-Baghdadi is an iconic figure for Islamic State - the leader who announced its caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria - it would be able to cope with his loss, according to Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

But while the death of al-Baghdadi would be welcome news indeed, we probably shouldn't get too carried away with the champagne.

U.S. military officials believe that top ISIS leaders have moved to the Syrian cities of Deir Ezzour and Mayadin.

"We have no information to corroborate those reports", Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Friday.

There was no statement from Islamic State or other jihadist groups on Friday regarding his status.

Al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq in June 2014 days after his fighters captured Mosul, the largest city they ever held. "Some experts view the deployment there of such serious weapons as an intention to create an additional military grouping to ensure steady communication channels between the government and pro-government forces in Syria and their partners in Iraq", Lavrov stressed.

He apparently joined the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and spent time in an American military prison.

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

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which is a nom de guerre, was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al Samarrai. The US offered a reward of $25 million for his capture or death in 2011.

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