Russia may have executed the ruthless and elusive leader of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria back in May, the Kremlin’s military claimed in a far from definitive statement.
“A May 28 airstrike on a suburban Raqqa, Syria, command post killed as up to 30 leaders and 300 troops in the militant group also identified as Daesh, ISIS, and ISIL. Reclusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was present ‘and was eliminated in the strike,’” the ministry said, reports United Press International (UPI).
“According to information, which we are checking through various channels, at the meeting was also present the leader of ISIS who as a result of the strike was destroyed. The American side was informed about the time and place of the Russian aviation through the channels of cooperation,” the Russian ministry declared in its statement, according to ABC News.
Nevertheless, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, only hours after the defense ministry’s claim surfaced, said he does not have “100 percent confirmation” that Baghdadi has died.
There have been multiple reports erroneously claiming Baghdadi has been wounded and even killed, but the Kremlin’s military statement marks the first time Russia acknowledged it might have executed the war criminal.
Prior to the recent allegations by the Russian military that the ISIS chief may be dead, “unconfirmed news claimed that Baghdadi, whose exact whereabouts remained unknown for long, had been seriously wounded when airstrikes targeted a senior leadership meeting he chaired near the borders with Syria,” noted Iraqi News.
Moreover, the West and Iraq are skeptical about Moscow’s claim that it has taken out Baghdadi, points out Reuters.
“We can’t confirm these reports at this time,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the anti-ISIS U.S.-led coalition, which maintains communications with Russia.
“We have no information to corroborate those reports,” reiterated U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
“His death has been reported so often that you have to be cautious till a formal Daesh [ISIS] statement comes,” an unnamed European security official told Reuters.
Pentagon officials say there are no indications of any “chatter” within the ranks of ISIS that Baghdadi has been killed or wounded, revealed Ret. Marine Col. Steve Ganyard who once served as a former deputy assistant secretary of state, according to ABC News.
“There’s nothing to back it up, no intelligence to back it up. So we need to remain very, very suspect of this claim,” added the retired Marine.
The Russians claimed that they killed the ISIS chief on the outskirts of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s de facto capital of Syria.
Raqqa is under siege by dictator Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian military, supported by Russian airpower and Iran-backed Shiite militias, including the narco-terrorist group Hezbollah, as well as the U.S. armed forces and their allies.
That makes it difficult to know for certain whether the world’s most wanted terrorist has in fact fallen.
“Raqqa is a city under siege, so the Russians have no hard evidence. There’s no DNA evidence that would suggest that he’s dead,” noted Col. Ganyard.
However, Baghdadi this year reportedly disseminated a “farewell speech” to his subordinates, followers, and sympathizers in Mosul, ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq where U.S-backed locals are believed to be close to victory — pushing the terrorist group out.
Echoing the commander of Iraq’s Federal Police, Baghdadi admitted defeat in Mosul and revealed that high-ranking ISIS officers, apparently including him, had fled to Syria.
The speech directed its combatants to “‘disguise and escape’ to the mountainous areas” of Iraq and Syria, reported Arabic-language al-Sumaria News.
Prior to the recent allegations by the Russian military that the ISIS chief may be dead, “unconfirmed news claimed that Baghdadi, whose exact whereabouts remained unknown for long, had been seriously wounded when airstrikes targeted a senior leadership meeting he chaired near the borders with Syria,” notes Iraqi News.