Bagh­dadi death ‘near cer­tain’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS­TIAN LOWE

MOSCOW: The like­li­hood that Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi has been killed is close to 100%, In­ter­fax news agency quoted the head of the de­fence com­mit­tee in Rus­sia’s up­per par­lia­men­tary house as say­ing yes­ter­day.

Rus­sia’s de­fence ministry said a week ago it be­lieved it may have killed Bagh­dadi when one of its air strikes hit a gath­er­ing of se­nior IS com­man­ders on the out­skirts of the Syr­ian city of Raqqa.

But armed groups fight­ing in the re­gion and US of­fi­cials say they have no ev­i­dence Bagh­dadi was killed, and many re­gional of­fi­cials have said they are scep­ti­cal about the in­for­ma­tion from Moscow.

Com­mit­tee head Vik­tor Oze­rov was quoted as say­ing the de­fence ministry would not have re­leased in­for­ma­tion about Bagh­dadi’s death if it be­lieved it could be later proved in­cor­rect.

“I think this in­for­ma­tion is close to 100%,” In­ter­fax quoted Oze­rov as say­ing. “The fact that Is­lamic State has still not shown him any­where also adds to our con­fi­dence that al-Bagh­dadi has been killed.”

Bagh­dadi has fre­quently been re­ported killed or wounded since he de­clared a caliphate from Mo­sul in 2014, af­ter lead­ing his fight­ers on a sweep through north­ern Iraq.

His death would be one of the big­gest blows yet to the ji­hadist group, which is try­ing to de­fend its shrink­ing ter­ri­tory in Syria and Iraq against forces backed by re­gional and global pow­ers. – Reuters

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