Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Moscow Revives Controversy over Baghdadi’s Fate | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This photo taken from the Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Friday, June 16, 2017, claims to show an aerial image at left of the ISIS headquarters on May 13, 2017, and an aerial image taken on May 29, at right, showing the same site following the Russian airstrike on May 28, 2017 on the outskirts of Raqqa, Syria. The sign at right reads Airstrike, the target destroyed. The sign on bottom right says The date of airstrike is May 28, 2017. Russia says it is verifying whether it killed Baghdadi. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service Photo via AP)

Beirut- Moscow revived on Friday the controversy over the fate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by announcing that its army might have killed him during an airstrike that targeted Syria’s Raqqa last month.

However, Washington said it was uncertain about al-Baghdadi’s death, while western and Iraqi experts doubted the Russian claim.

On Friday, the Russian Army said that it might have killed Baghdadi during an airstrike on May 28 while the leader of ISIS was attending a meeting of the organization. The army said that Baghdadi might have been killed along with around 30 other ISIS military commanders and 300 militants.

But several sources and experts ruled out Moscow’s claims and said that Baghdadi was not in Raqqa when the Russian airstrike occured.

Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel-Rahman told Asharq Al-Awsat that at the time of the Russian airstrike, all first-rank ISIS officials had already fled Raqqa.

“The Russians probably received inaccurate information in this regard,” he said.

Also, Ahmad al-Ramadan, an activist from the Euphrates Post campaign doubted the Russian claims.

“Baghdadi is present in Iraq and not in Syria,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying ISIS is currently run by a 12-member leadership council that practically leads the terrorist organization.

Baghdadi only constitutes an image for ISIS, he added.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces backed by coalition forces continued on Friday their military campaign in Raqqa, the stronghold of ISIS.

Activists reported that the organization’s militants launched counter attacks to stop the SDF advancement and hinder their infiltration.

The ISIS attacks killed Yehya Mohammed Shehadeh, a commander from the tribal forces operating with the SDF. Other reports also spoke about the killing of another leading official from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in an explosion that targeted his convoy in the town of Ain Issa, in the countryside of northern Raqqa.