A monitoring group says it has "confirmed information" that the "Islamic State" leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed. It's not the first report of his death. The Pentagon has no corroborating information.
London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it had information from members of the self-styled "Islamic State" confirming the death of the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The militia leader has been reported dead on numerous past occasions. He has not been seen in public since his appearance at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul in 2014, when he proclaimed himself "caliph."
The Observatory claimed to have learned the information from IS sources that it did not name.
"Top tier commanders from IS who are present in Deir Ezzor province (Syria) have confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, emir of the Islamic State group, to the Observatory," director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. "We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how."
However, the Pentagon responded, saying that it had no information to corroborate this report. Further, his death has not been confirmed by Iraqi or Kurdish officials.
At a similar time, US President Donald Trump tweeted simply "Big wins against ISIS," using one of the several acronyms for the group.
The spokesman for the US-led coalition forces in the region, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said al-Baghdadi's death could not be confirmed. He did, however, hint at recent US successes targeting other members of IS' hierarchy: "We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed."
Russian claim from May still being verified
Moscow said in June that airstrikes around the IS stronghold of Raqqa may have killed al-Baghdadi. The strikes had taken place on May 28, and the Kremlin said it was investigating whether al-Baghdadi was killed in them.
"According to information, which is being verified via different channels, the meeting was also attended by the IS leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated in the strike," Moscow's defense ministry was quoted as saying by news agency TASS at the time.
These reports, like previous ones, of al-Baghdadi's death were never confirmed or denied. Raqqa is less than 100 kilometers north of the eponymous provincial capital of Deir Ezzor.
In severe retreat in Iraq, with Mosul falling to government forces in recent days, most of IS' top brass is believed to be in Syria.
cl/msh (AFP, Reuters)