According to Russian state-owned network RT, a Russian-led airstrike in Syria has killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Russian Su-34 aircraft and a Su-35 multi-role fighter carried out airstrikes near the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on May 28, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Friday. The strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking ISIS chiefs where al-Baghdadi was reportedly present.
“According to information, which is being checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was killed as a result of the strike,” the Ministry said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he could not fully confirm the death of Baghdadi because he did not have “100 percent confirmation.”
The U.S. military could not confirm the reports of Baghdadi’s death, either, according to Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force (Dillon did seem to indicate he would welcome the news if it were true).
Less than a week ago, Syria’s state television was the first to announce Baghdadi’s recent alleged death in an airstrike in Raqqa — even though no Syrian officials confirmed or took credit for this claim (perhaps Syria’s state TV is just desperately in need of funding).
If Russia and Syria’s accounts are confirmed, they will mark the latest incident where Baghdadi rose from the dead and found himself on the receiving end of yet another missile.
In May 2007, Iraqi officials reported his death. At the time, he the head of what was known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) — essentially al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). According to the CNN report, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said it was not known who Baghdadi was or if he even existed, and ISI/AQI denied Baghdadi had been killed.
Two months later, military spokesperson Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner told a news conference that Baghdadi did not exist at all, Reuters reported. According to Bergner’s sources, the leader of ISI was given an Iraqi name (Baghdadi, meaning “from Baghdad”) so the group’s foreign influence and leadership could be masked from its followers.
Casting further doubt on Baghdadi’s existence, Baghdadi has only made one public appearance to date — in 2014 — according to the Independent.
Despite his alleged non-existence, Reuters then reported in 2009 that Iraqi forces had captured Baghdadi, something ISI denied. Despite the claims he had been captured, he presumably used his ghost-like bodily constitution to disappear from Iraq’s clutches and into obscurity. He was then reported dead by then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in April 2010, following an airstrike the U.S. referred to as a “potentially devastating blow.”
Escaping and evading capture and certain death once again, Baghdadi was reported “critically wounded” in an airstrike in November 2014. Making a speedy recovery, he was then “seriously wounded” in another air strike in April 2015 — some five months later. About six months later, his convoy was again hit by a strike that killed at least nine ISIS fighters, but Baghdadi’s fate was reportedly unknown.
There are further reports that Baghdadi was killed in 2016, as well.
Baghdadi currently has a $25 million bounty on his head, but officials appear to keep losing track of him even though they previously claimed to have arrested him. Even the U.S. had him in their custody as far back as 2004, but he was released “unconditionally” despite being the maniac he has purportedly become. According to the Intercept:
Days later, the Pentagon confirmed that Baghdadi was only in U.S. custody for 10 months, from February to December 2004. The Department of Defense told the fact-checking website PunditFact in a statement that Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca. ‘A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.’
Some reports suggest he was even in U.S. custody in 2009, as well, though Politifact cast doubt on this particular claim after the Defense Department was asked to confirm the story and said Baghdadi was released in 2004, not 2009.
Considering he has been in custody and arrested (and killed) multiple times since, why has no one wanted to claim their monetary prize and revel in the glory of dismantling ISIS’ organizational structure?
What is behind the mystification of leaders in charge the world’s most vile terror organizations is unclear. In 2001, Fox News reported that Osama bin Laden had died a “peaceful death” — almost ten years before the Obama administration reportedly assassinated him during a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan (as the official story goes). Are we really to believe that Baghdadi keeps rising from the dead?
How many lives does he have left?