Uncertainty over Islamic State leader's fate after airstrike

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqa may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May, Russian news agencies reported.

The spokesman for the USA -led, anti-Islamic State coalition said in a statement Friday that he could not confirm the Russian claim.

A statement by the ministry said the information is being checked to verify the claims. Al Qaeda leaders later severed relations with him, saying he was insubordinate, killing too many civilians.

The strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking Islamic State chiefs where Al- Baghdadi was reportedly present.

Still, the death of al-Baghdadi would be a major military and propaganda success for Russian Federation, which has waged a military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015.

"On May 28, after drones were used to confirm the information on the place and time of the meeting of IS leaders, between 00:35 and 00:45, Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located", the statement said.

"Russia has a long track record of issuing fake claims and deliberate misinformation during its campaign in Syria", said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

USA defense officials said they were unable to confirm the reports.

Al-Hashimi said the other Isis leader, al-Beljiki, was unlikely to have been in Syria at the time of the attack.

Baghdadi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, has managed to evade being killed or captured by the US-led anti-Daesh coalition throughout its more than two-year campaign in Iraq and Syria.

Al-Baghdadi is a nom de guerre for a man identified as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai.

Reacting to the report, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists that there is no one-hundred-per cent confirmation yet that leader of the Islamic State terror group outlawed in Russia, al-Baghdadi, has been killed, " So far, I have no one-hundred-percent confirmation of this information", Lavrov said.

United States authorities offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.

If true, Baghdadis death will push the accelerator on ISIS's demise which has been retreating on all fronts.

Earlier, the Russian army, in a statement, said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.

In addition, the ministry noted that a total of 16 automotive and armored vehicles and tanks, one artillery, four control posts and an ammunition storage depot were destroyed in the strikes.

  • Leroy Wright