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Russia 'may have killed Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi' in airstrike near Raqqa

Russia ‘may have killed Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ in airstrike near Raqqa

.Russia is investigating whether one of its air strikes killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday it was checking on information indicating that Baghdadi was killed in a Russia-led airstrike in Syria.

Russian Su-34 aircraft and an Su-35 multirole fighter carried out airstrikes near the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on May 28, the ministry said.
The strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking Isil chiefs where Baghdadi was reportedly present.

It said the air raid on the southern outskirts of the city killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters.

“According to information that is being checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting,” the ministry said in a statement.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, later added that Russia still did not have 100 percent certainty that he had been killed.

The claims have been met with scepticism, however.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said they recorded no Russian airstrike on May 28. He also believed Baghdadi was not in the area at the time of the alleged raid.

The US-led coalition said there is no way to confirm the Russian claim.

Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the US-led coalition against Isil, tweeted: “Coalition cannot confirm death of Baghdadi; no definitive proof. Welcome that day, tho! #ISIS definitely losing, no proof needed there!”

#Coalition cannot confirm death of Baghdadi; no definitive proof. Welcome that day, tho! #ISIS definitely losing, no proof needed there!

— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) June 16, 2017

Experts say it in unlikely the elusive leader, who is thought to have been moving in recent months between the Iraqi town of Ba’aj and border towns in Syria, would be meeting in public with senior leaders at a time when Raqqa is coming under such intense aerial bombardment.

He was thought to have been in Iraq’s second city of Mosul, which had been the largest city under the terror group’s control, before a US-led coalition began an effort to reclaim it last October.

His only public appearance since claiming the creation of an Isil “caliphate” was in a video in June 2014, in which he was seen delivering a sermon in the Grand al-Nouri mosque.

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, said in March that it was “a matter of time” before he was killed.

“Nearly all of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies are now dead, including the mastermind behind the attacks in Brussels, Paris, and elsewhere. It is only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets the same fate,” he said.

Baghdadi’s death has been falsely reported more than a dozen times over the years.

In January 2017, there were reports that the Iraqi-born leader, who has a multi-million dollar bounty on this head, had been “critically injured” in air strikes in Iraq.

The latest claim was made by the Syrian government last week, which said one of its warplanes killed the emir on June 10.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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