Russian Federation claims it has killed al-Baghdadi

Marsha Scott
June 17, 2017

Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon, who has been reporting on the fight against ISIS from the Middle East, said reports that a Russian airstrike killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi should be treated with skepticism.

US intelligence officials are skeptical of Russia's claim that its military killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with an airstrike in late May along with other senior commanders of the terrorist group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

United States national security officials were quick to discount - and even mock - reports from Moscow that the Russian military had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 strike.

The Defense Ministry also reported that Russian servicemen had killed a number of high-ranking IS commanders and around 330 mid-ranking field commanders and private militants during the airstrike on the southern suburbs of Raqqa.

For one, the Russian military claimed to have killed Baghdadi more than two weeks ago, and yet there has been no chatter among ISIS operatives, either publicly or privately, about Baghdadi's death or who would replace him.

The air strike was launched after the Russian forces in Syria received intelligence that a meeting of Islamic State leaders was being planned, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

"His death has been reported so often that you have to be cautious till a formal Daesh statement comes", a European security official said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

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 in the absence of independent confirmation, some US officials said USA agencies were sceptical of the report.

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

There have also been been several previous reports of al-Baghdadi being killed, but they did not turn out to be true.

Said Mr Patrick Skinner, an analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy: "It is rather remarkable that the leader of the most image-conscious terrorist group is so low-key in terms of his own publicity".

This is the first time that Russian Federation has claimed killing al-Baghdadi, despite previous reports of the leader's death circulating. Dead or alive he's already passed into legendary status for his followers and the concept of ISIS (as opposed to the physical reality of their armies and infrastructure) has taken root across the internet and in secret meetings in mosques and other gathering places around the world.

He apparently joined the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and spent time in an American military prison. The group is under assault in its strongholds in both Iraq and Syria, with its presence in Mosul, Iraq near collapse.

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

U.S. authorities offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported airstrikes south of Raqqah May 28 that killed 18 people, including 10 Islamic State fighters.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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