Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, Reuters quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying. “(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” the director of the British-based war monitoring group Rami Abdulrahman said.
Although Baghdadi’s death had been announced many times before, the Observatory is known for its track record of credible reporting on Syria’s civil war. Abdulrahman said Observatory sources in Syria’s eastern town of Deir al-Zor had been told by Islamic State sources that Baghdadi had died, but said “they did not specify when”.
However, Islamic State-affiliated websites and social media feeds have not carried any news regarding the leader’s death. The latest development also comes days after Iraq announced that the city of Mosul has been completely reclaimed from the clutches of ISIS. It brought an end to three years of jihadist rule in the city, where thousands of civilians were killed and nearly one million people were displaced.
Earlier in June, Russia’s Defence Ministry had suggested that one of its air strikes might have killed Baghdadi when it hit a gathering of Islamic State commanders on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa. However, US said it could not confirm the death, while Western and Iraqi officials remained sceptical.
The United States had offered a reward of USD 25 million for his capture, the same amount it had put up for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his successor Ayman al-Zawahri. However, it is not yet known if anybody will claim the bounty.
Who was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ?
Born as Ibrahim Awad al-Samarrai in 1971 in Tobchi (Iraq), Baghdadi joined the Salafi jihadist insurgency in 2003. He was captured by the Americans in the same year when United States invaded Iraq. However, the American troops released him about a year later, thinking that he was a civilian agitator rather than a military threat. Baghdadi made headlines across the globe on July 4, 2014 when he climbed the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval al-Nuri mosque in black clerical garb to announce the restoration of the caliphate.
Thousands of volunteers from across the world flocked into Iraq and Syria to become soldiers of the caliphate. During its prime two years ago, the ISIS maintained its grip over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. It also claimed to carried out attacks in dozens of cities including Paris, Nice, Orlando, Manchester, London and Berlin, and in nearby Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Baghdadi and his terror outfit, however, lost considerable grounds since the loss of Mosul and the siege of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria.
With Reuters inputs