Several conflicting reports have surfaced about the fate of the Islamic State’s self- declared “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, who is believed to have been severely injured in a recent U.S. airstrike. Over the weekend and into Monday, reports have stated that Baghdadi’s health status varies from deceased, to complete paralysis, to only having sustained minor injuries.
Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State, a Sunni jihadist insurgency organization that has spread from Syria and Iraq to Libya, Yemen, and even Afghanistan. Some outlets reported that Baghdadi was “seriously wounded in a March airstrike upon his convoy, but the Pentagon has denied those reports.
On Monday, Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian’s Middle East Reporter, tweeted, “Sources tell us Baghdadi is still alive, but still unable to move due to spinal injury sustained in the March air strike.”
Radio Iran claimed on Monday that Baghdadi had succumbed to his wounds, according to a Times of India report.
But an ISIS spokesman and cleric contradicted reports of Baghdadi’s demise, telling pro-ISIS worshippers over the weekend that the aforementioned reports are false.
“The rumors of the Caliph of Muslims, [Abu Bakr Al] Baghdadi, being injured by coalition airstrikes have no basis,” said Abu Assad Ansari, an ISIS spokesperson, during Friday prayers in Mosul, Rudaw reports. “He is in Anbar and is commanding the war against Safavids [Shiites],” added Ansari.
Newsweek reports that Baghdadi’s successor will likely be a cleric named Abu Alaa Afri, who is reportedly ISIS’s temporary chief while Baghdadi is recovering from his injuries. Afri has been described as a “rising star” within the jihadist insurgency.
The U.S. State Department has offered a $10 million dollar reward for information leading to the Islamic State leader’s capture or death.