The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it is “highly likely” that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL), was eliminated in an airstrike carried out by the Russian Air Force in Syria earlier in May.
“It is highly likely that Islamic State leader [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi was eliminated in an airstrike of the Russian Air Force on a militant command post in a southern suburb of the city of Raqqa in late May,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told Sputnik News, citing data provided by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Syromolotov added that the information about al-Baghdadi’s death is now being verified through “various channels.”
The death of the terrorist group leader would likely lead to disorganization of the extremists, Syromolotov said and added that efforts aimed at inflicting ultimate defeat on Islamic State should be continued.
On June 16, the Russian Defense Ministry said that al-Baghdadi had allegedly been killed in an airstrike carried out in late May that targeted a meeting of high-ranking Islamic State commanders where the extremist group’s leader was also reportedly present.
Later the same day, the MoD released images of the area hit by the airstrike.
The Russian military also gave the information about the strike to the US forces, but the Pentagon said that it had “no information to corroborate those reports” on Baghdadi’s death. In the meantime, the Pentagon said that the US-led coalition forces killed Islamic State’s self-proclaimed chief cleric, Turki al-Binali, who was regarded as al-Baghdadi’s potential successor.
Although numerous media reports have speculated on al-Baghdadi’s death in US-led coalition airstrikes earlier, neither the Pentagon, nor the Iraqi or Syrian militaries have confirmed the claims.