Sat, Jun 17, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Russia says it may have killed Islamic State group leader

AP, BEIRUT

An image made from video posted on a militant website on July 5, 2014, purports to show Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq.

Photo: AP

Russia yesterday said it was verifying whether it had killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of the group’s leaders just outside its de facto capital in Syria, dealing a potentially severe blow to the extremist group as it fights to hang on to its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a strike late last month along with other senior group commanders, adding that the information about his death was still “being verified through various channels.”

However, asked later about that claim at a news conference in Moscow, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said: “I don’t have a 100 percent confirmation of the information.”

Lavrov added on a cautious note that if al-Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, its importance must not be overestimated.

“Past examples of similar actions to strike the leadership of terrorist groups were presented with much enthusiasm and pomp, but the experience shows that those structures later regained their capability,” he said.

There had been previous reports of al-Baghdadi being killed, but they did not turn out to be true.

The Islamic State leader last released an audio message on Nov. 3 last year, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the Iraqi city against a major offensive that began weeks earlier.

The report of al-Baghdadi’s death comes as the group suffers major setbacks in which it has lost wide areas of territory and both of their strongholds — Mosul in Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa.

As the militants take a pounding in their eroding strongholds, US officials and Syrian activists say many commanders have fled Mosul and Raqqa for Mayadeen, a remote town in the heart of Syria’s Islamic State-controlled Euphrates River valley near the Iraqi border. Their relocation could extend the group’s ability to wreak havoc for months to come.

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