Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, was severely injured in an airstrike and is being treated at a medical facility in northeastern Syria. The government-run Al-Sabah daily quoted Abu Ali al-Basri, Iraq’s intelligence and counterterrorism department chief, as saying that Baghdadi had sustained serious wounds on his legs.

“We have irrefutable information and documents from sources within the terrorist organisation that al-Baghdadi is still alive and hiding with the help of his collaborators,” al-Basri said. “Baghdadi is still alive and hiding in the Syrian region [west of Deir ez-Zor] with the help of his collaborators.”

The senior Iraqi official added that the Islamic State leader has “injuries, diabetes and fractures to the body and legs that prevent him from walking without assistance”.

In 2017, Russia had claimed to have killed the terrorist group’s elusive leader in an airstrike on a meeting of senior Islamic State commanders near the Syrian city of Raqqa on May 28. The United States, however, had said they could not confirm Baghdadi’s death, and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had said he believed al-Baghdadi is still alive.

American intelligence officials told CNN on Monday that the injuries al-Baghdadi had suffered had forced him to cede control of the group. The assessment is based on reports from Islamic State detainees and refugees in Northern Syria that emerged months after the airstrike. The officials told CNN they were not sure whether the injuries were a result of an attack by the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, or by a Russian missile strike.

“There have been isolated strikes by Russians in Raqqa, but as there is no timeline to it, we do not know if it’s ours,” an unidentified official said.