Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was forced to cede leadership of the terrorist group for several months last year, CNN reported Monday, due to injuries sustained in an airstrike in Syria. CNN reported that U.S. intelligence agencies believe al-Baghdadi stepped down for nearly half a year after being injured.
The details regarding the airstrike are scarce, and the U.S. reportedly knows what little it does from former ISIS prisoners and refugees who escaped the terrorist group. Still, American intelligence agencies believe "with a high degree of confidence" that al-Baghdadi was injured in the strike, CNN reported. A U.S. official who spoke to CNN said that the airstrike in question most likely occurred around May, in or around the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria.
CNN notes that al-Baghdadi's injuries could have been the result of a Russian airstrike near Raqqa that occurred last May, and even U.S. officials are ultimately unsure if al-Baghdadi's injuries were the work of America or Russia. "There have been isolated strikes by Russians in Raqqa, but as there's no timeline to it, we don't know if it [was our airstrike or Russia's]," the U.S. official told CNN.
In June, Russia's Defense Ministry suggested that the ISIS leader had been killed in the May airstrike, although the U.S. government openly disputed that claim. Regardless of which country was responsible, al-Baghdadi's injuries were apparently so severe that he was unable to effectively run ISIS until he recovered. Read more at CNN.