The head of Russian Defence Ministry, Viktor Ozerov, on Friday said that the likelihood of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being killed is close to 100%, Reuters reported. “The fact that Islamic State has still not shown him anywhere also adds to our confidence that al-Baghdadi has been killed,” Interfax news agency quoted Ozerov as saying.
On June 16, Russia’s Defence Ministry had said it was investigating whether one of its air strikes in Syria in May had killed al-Baghdadi. The Islamic State group leaders had gathered at the command centre, situated in the southern suburb of Raqqa, the group’s de-facto capital, to discuss possible routes of retreat from the city. The Russian military had initially sent drones to monitor the area and then dispatched a group of fighter jets to hit the Islamic State gathering. A number of senior leaders of the group were believed to have been killed in the strike.
The Russian report, however, could not be confirmed by the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Many regional offices have also said they are sceptical about the information from Moscow. However, Ozerov said the Defence Ministry would not have released information about Baghdadi’s death if it believed it to be untrue.
There have been a number of previous reports of Baghdadi’s death in the past. Baghdadi had declared himself the “caliph” at the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in 2014 in his only public appearance. The mosque and its famous leaning minaret was blown up by the Islamic State group on Wednesday.