ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been nicknamed “The Ghost,” and it’s not hard to see why given how many times his demise has been reported.After every report, we learn that the news of his death has been greatly exaggerated.
The latest report of Baghdadi’s demise came mid-June, with Russia claiming that they took him out. While they acknowledged that they were still looking into the claim, Moscow said it had information that Baghdadi was among a gathering of up to 30 Isis leaders in the north-eastern city of Raqqa that was struck by its fighter jets just after midnight on 28 May.
While Russia originated the claims of Baghdadi’s demise, Iran is now claiming to confirm them. According to Sputnik News (a Russian news source, but they’re not the only ones reporting this):
[T]he elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard verified the death of Daesh mastermind Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi “through multiple channels,” a representative said Thursday.Ali Shirazi, a top Iranian cleric, told Asr-e Iran News Agency there is “no doubt” Baghdadi is deceased.
Counterterrorism sources have noticed increased conflict within the ranks of Daesh over its top leadership spot, which analysts interpret as a signal that al-Baghdadi has been killed, Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov told Sputnik on June 29. “If he were alive, then as a demonstration of power and as a means of increasing war morale, a refutation would have already been announced,” Pushkov added.
On June 11, US officials told Voice of America they could not confirm that al-Baghdadi was killed in the strike. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation on June 29.
According to Islamabad-based analyst Nauman Sadiq, “It is not in Washington’s interests right now to confirm the deaths of the Islamic State’s top leaders even if it has received credible reports of their deaths because the US troops and affiliated local militias have mounted offensives against the Islamic State’s strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa which have caused colossal loss of human lives.”Raqqa is the de-facto capital of ISIS, which US backed forces have completely encircled as of today.
If Baghdadi is still alive and hiding in his Islamic State’s capital, his days are numbered anyway.[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. He is a co-author of the new book A Paradoxical Alliance: Islam and the Left, and can be found on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]