Josie Ensor — Telegraph.co.uk June 16, 2017
Russia is investigating whether one of its air strikes killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday it was checking on information indicating that Baghdadi was killed in a Russia-led airstrike in Syria.
Russian Su-34 aircraft and an Su-35 multirole fighter carried out airstrikes near the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on May 28, the ministry said.
The strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking Isil chiefs where Baghdadi was reportedly present.
It said the air raid on the southern outskirts of the city killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters.
“According to information that is being checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting,” the ministry said in a statement.
The US-led coalition said there is no way to confirm the Russian claim.
Experts say it in unlikely the elusive leader, who is thought to have been moving in recent months between the Iraqi town of Ba’aj and border towns in Syria, would be meeting in public with senior leaders at a time when Raqqa is coming under such intense aerial bombardment.
He was thought before that to have been in Iraq’s second city of Mosul, which had been the largest city under the terror group’s control, before a US-led coalition began an effort to reclaim it last October.
His only public appearance since claiming the creation of an Isil “caliphate” was in a video in June 2014, in which he was seen delivering a sermon in the Grand al-Nouri mosque.
Baghdadi’s death has been falsely reported more than a dozen times over the years.
The latest claim was made by the Syrian government last week, which said one of its warplanes killed the emir on June 10.