Moscow Revives Controversy over Baghdadi’s Fate

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.

ISIS Administered by 12-Member Committee Instead of Baghdadi

Beirut- ISIS has limited the role of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and sent a 12-member leadership council to the Syrian territories under the name of “negotiating committee” to practically lead the terrorist organization, informed Syrian sources said on Sunday.

“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 on Sunday.

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

The founder of the Euphrates Post also said that the 12-member council has lately moved to Syria but issues decisions implementable in Syria and Iraq.

The latest development comes at a time when ISIS faces in its stronghold in Raqqa an attack from three fronts, led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which already infiltrated from the east and west of the city and has lately opened a new front against the organization by attacking its linked Division 17 base in the north.

Meanwhile, a video released on the Internet showed on Sunday Syrian regime helicopters dropping barrel bombs on the city of Daraa and a Palestinian refugee camp in the southwest of the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 170 missiles and barrel bombs had targeted Daraa on Sunday.

Currently, ISIS faces four battles in Syria, where the SDF and coalition forces attack the terrorist organization’s stronghold in Raqqa, while the Syrian regime and its allied militias face the group at three other fronts, in the countryside of Palmyra, the countryside of Damascus and in the eastern desert in the countryside of eastern Hama.

Conflicting Reports about the Killing of ISIS Leader Baghdadi in Air Strike, Raqqa

Baghdadi

London: Media outlets had published yesterday reports about the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the terrorist ISIS organization, in U.S. air strike in Raqqa, in the absence of any official confirmation from the U.S. Department of Defense.

A U.S. Pentagon Spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday: “We have looked at those (media) reports; however, we currently have no information confirming the news.”

From its part, the British Daily Mirror newspaper had wrote yesterday quoting Iraq’s news agency Amaq: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by the U.S. led coalition air strikes on Raqqa, Syria, on the fifth day of Ramadan.”

The reports come a week following reports published by the Iraqi Al-Sumariya television about the injury of Baghdadi by an air strike conducted by the U.S.-led coalition. However, the coalition could not confirm the reports.

A spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS militants, Colonel Chris Garver, said in an email that he had seen the reports but had “nothing to confirm the incident at this time”.

Meanwhile, by the ISIS is sinking in its own internal disputes and chaos, reports confirm the important increase of the killing of ISIS fighters by the organization itself.

The British Foreign Office had quoted Garver as saying that in the past three months, there has been an increase in the number of ISIS fighters killed by the organization. “It seems we have entered a phase of internal dispute,” Garver had said. “We have seen cases of high-ranking (ISIS) leaders executing (ISIS) members with lower ranks. And we know the militants face more military pressures as they lose more territories, financial resources and battles.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had lately published reports saying ISIS killed 464 of its fighters in the last two years.

Reports from parties close to ISIS in Syria and Iraq said that in 2016 alone, the organization had executed 40 of its militants in Deir Ezzor and 50 others in Musol for causing “internal disputes.”

One ISIS leader was killed by his comrades in light of the increasing divisions in Raqqa, while 12 ISIS militants were killed in Mosul by their comrades claiming they had collaborated with Iraqi forces.

The number of withdrawals from ISIS has increased while the number of foreign fighters joining the organization has decrease by 90 percent, according to the international coalition. ISIS has also lost 45 percent of territories it used to control in Iraq and more than 10 percent of its territories in Syria.

To date, around 25,000 ISIS militants were killed.