Published: Sat, June 17, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Uncertainty over Islamic State leader's fate after airstrike


Russia is yet to confirm the death of Daesh leader Baghdadi in a Russian airstrike in Syria's Raqqa, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier in the day.

"According to information, which we are checking through various channels, at the meeting was also present the leader of ISIS who as a result of the strike was destroyed".

The strike is believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group, as well as about 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards, the Russian statement said.

Moscow said on Friday its forces may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria last month, but Washington said it could not corroborate the death and Western and Iraqi officials were sceptical.

"We can't confirm these reports at this time", said Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the USA -led coalition's operation against ISIS.

Russian Federation supports the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is fighting against Islamic State fighters, one front in a multi-sided civil war.

The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, referred questions about al-Baghdadi to the defense ministry.

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.

The ministry said the IS leaders were gathered to discuss the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital.

Al-Baghdadi was said to have been killed in a US-led airstrike on June 14.

Other state media reported that more than 300 "terrorists" were killed in the strike.

The group's current No. 2 is believed to be Ayad Abdul-Rahman al-Obeidi, also known as Abu Saleh Haifa, a former Iraqi army officer under Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. -led coalition's military campaign is now focused on ousting ISIS from its strongholds in Raqqa and in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria's war, said airstrikes on the road linked the villages of Ratla and Kasrat killed 18 people while the activist-operated Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said 17 civilians were killed in the airstrike on buses carrying civilians. It did not elaborate at the time. Those killed included the so-called emir of Raqa and the ISIS security chief, the Russian statement said. Since then, it has horrified the world with mass killings and other atrocities in areas it controls, as well as claiming attacks around the world that killed hundreds.

Al-Baghdadi is a nom de guerre for a man identified as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai. It has offered a reward of up to Dollars 25 million for information leading to his capture or death.

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. "It has been retreating on all fronts, and the death of its leader will accelerate its demise".

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