THE RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID, ISIS LEADER ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED IN ONE OF ITS AIRSTRIKES IN SYRIA LAST MONTH.
The May 28 airstrike was carried out on the outskirts of the militant group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, on a command post where ISIS leaders were meeting, according to a ministry statement.
“According to information that is being verified through various channels, the leader of ISIS … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was killed as a result of the strike,” the ministry said.
The United States confirmed that Russia conducted airstrikes on May 28, a US official said.
The Americans are investigating whether the strikes were in the precise area the Russians are claiming and whether there is any intelligence on who may have been in that location, the official said.
There have been previous reports of Baghdadi’s death that later turned out to be false.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an image grab from a propaganda video released in July 2014.
The Russian statement said the strike targeted ISIS leaders as they met to discuss their exit from the city. It said about 30 midlevel field commanders and up to 300 militants acting as bodyguards were also present.
The airstrike was carried out following drone footage confirmation of the meeting location, the statement said.
CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward warned the details from the Russians were inconsistent with the typical behavior of ISIS leaders.
“They do not meet in big groupings like that because of drone strikes, because they are constantly being bombarded,” she said.
“If he has been killed, of course it would deal a big blow to the group, but let’s just look at the past few weeks — we’ve had major terror attacks in London, in Baghdad, in Tehran, in Kabul. So clearly it is still business as usual for ISIS.”
CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling also warned against giving too much weight to Russia’s sources.
“I’m not going to take this too seriously because there have been at least five reported killings of al-Baghdadi over the last three years,” he said.
“I wouldn’t believe the Russian sources based on anything they’re hearing out of Syria.”