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Russia May Have Killed Baghdadi but US-Led Coalition Cannot Confirm it | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – Reuters

Russia’s Defense Ministry revealed on Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike in Syria may have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May although the US-led coalition battling the terrorist organization said it could not confirm his death.

The air strike was launched near the Syrian city of Raqqa after the Russian forces received intelligence that a meeting of ISIS leaders was being planned, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

“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.

“According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike,” the ministry said.

But US Army Colonel Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for the coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, said: “We cannot confirm these reports at this time.”

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

The leaders of the terrorist organization had gathered at the command center, in a southern suburb of Raqqa, to discuss possible routes for the militants’ retreat from the city, the statement said.

It added that Washington was informed in advance about the place and time of the strike near the jihadists’ Syria stronghold, which is now under assault by US-backed fighters.

ISIS militants are also close to defeat in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul.

There had been previous reports of Baghdadi being killed but they did not turn out to be true. The ISIS leader last released an audio on Nov. 3, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the city against a major offensive that began weeks earlier.

Informed Syrian sources said on Sunday that ISIS has limited Baghdadi’s role and sent a 12-member leadership council to the Syrian territories under the name of “negotiating committee” to practically lead the terrorist organization.

“Lately, Baghdadi has only been ISIS’ image, while the actual leadership of the organization in Syria and Iraq is in the hands of a 12-member council that plans and orders everything related to the group,” the founder of the Euphrates Post, Ahmad al-Ramadan, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Ramadan denied reports that Baghdadi had been killed in an air strike in Syria, asserting that the leader of ISIS “initially lives in Iraq.”