Updated: April 22, 2015 1:55:07 pm
Reclusive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not resumed day-to-day control of the organisation since he was wounded in an air strike in March, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.
The daily cited an Iraqi source as saying that Baghdadi’s injuries were initially so severe that they forced him to relinquish control of the extremist group.
The Pentagon on Tuesday shot down the Guardian story in The Daily Beast. Pentagon officials said that while a strike in that area indeed happened on March 18, there was no evidence then or since that Baghdadi was present.
The strike was not aimed at a high-value target, officials said. “We have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi,” Army Col Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told The Daily Beast.
According to the Guardian report, the IS leader was seriously wounded by an attack launched by the US-led coalition in the al-Baaja district of Nineveh, close to the Syrian border. Baghdadi’s wounds were at first life-threatening, but he has since made a slow recovery.
After his injury, IS leaders reportedly held an urgent meeting, where they are believed to have made plans to name a new leader, the daily reported.
A diplomat told the Guardian that an air strike on a three-car convoy had taken place on March 18 between the village of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan. The attack was believed to have killed three IS leaders.
There have been two previous reports that Baghdadi had been killed, but neither were confirmed by the extremist group. Following one of the rumours last November, IS had released an audio recording that it said was of chief Baghdadi.
Baghdadi, believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million US bounty on his head. Since taking the reins of the Islamic State in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaeda into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.
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