Has Russia killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

Defence ministry claims terrorist leader may have been killed in air strike in Raqqa


Russia's defence ministry is checking reports that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed in an air strike near Raqqa, Syria, last month.

Officials said the strike had been launched after Russian forces in Syria were informed about a planned meeting of IS leaders.

"On May 28, after drones were used to confirm the information on the place and time of the meeting of IS leaders, between 00:35 and 00:45, Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located," said a statement on the ministry's Facebook page.

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"According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike."

The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State told Reuters it could not confirm the report.

"There have been multiple reports of Baghdadi's death in the past that have turned out to be false," says CNN.

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However, says the BBC, this is the first time Moscow has said it may have killed the IS leader.

Previous media reports claimed Baghdadi had been killed or critically injured by US-led coalition airstrikes, adds the broadcaster.

Paul Cruickshank, terrorism analyst at CNN, said there were "numerous reasons why we should be deeply sceptical" of the claim.

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It has been more than two years since Baghdadi's whereabouts were known, although he was "believed to be in Mosul in Iraq before a US-led coalition began an effort to reclaim the city in October 2016", says the BBC.

Reuters reported he was recently thought to have been "hiding in thousands of square miles of desert", rather than living in Mosul or Raqqa.

In March, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "nearly all" Baghdadi's deputies had been killed as Isis's territory was squeezed in both Syria and Iraq.

It was "only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets this same fate", he added.

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