Moscow strug­gling

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Moscow, mean­while, said it was strug­gling to con­firm if Bagh­dadi is dead or alive, a month af­ter re­port­ing his pos­si­ble demise.

The Rus­sian army said in June that it was try­ing to ver­ify in­for­ma­tion that its jets killed Bagh­dadi dur­ing a bomb­ing raid near the IS strong­hold of Raqa in Syria.

But over a month af­ter the an­nounce­ment Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Rus­sia still had “no more pre­cise in­for­ma­tion” on Bagh­dadi’s fate.

“The in­for­ma­tion com­ing in is con­tra­dic­tory and is be­ing checked by the rel­e­vant agen­cies,” he said.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a mon­i­tor, said last week it had heard from se­nior IS lead­ers in Syria’s Deir Ez­zor prov­ince that Bagh­dadi was dead.

But Pen­tagon chief James Mat­tis said on Fri­day that he could not “con­firm or deny” if Bagh­dadi is dead, adding that Wash­ing­ton’s ap­proach was to “as­sume he’s alive un­til it’s proven oth­er­wise”.

Bagh­dadi’s group has earned global no­to­ri­ety for im­pos­ing a hard­line form of Is­lam that has in­cluded ston­ings, be­head­ings and am­pu­ta­tions as it has claimed the cre­ation of a “caliphate” af­ter snatch­ing ter­ri­tory across Syria and Iraq.

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