Russia reports that the leader of ISIS has been killed, although there is good reason to be suspicious of this claim.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported earlier today that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed. American and Iraqi defense officials could not confirm Russia’s claims.
Pentagon spokesman U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis said: “We have no information to corroborate those reports.” In addition, Reuters reports that a colonel with the Iraqi national security service believes that Baghdadi was not even in Raqqa at the time of the strike. A similar view is shared by other Iraqi officials.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also could not confirm al-Baghdadi’s death: “So far, I have no 100% confirmation of the information that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed.”
Russia believes he was killed during an airstrike on May 28th on Raqqa, which serves as a capital to the Islamic State, where ISIS leaders were said to have been meeting.
The Defense Ministry also claimed that the airstrike had killed, “about 30 field commanders and up to 300 militants of their personal security.” Drone footage confirmed the meeting before Russian forces struck.
If these reports are true, security experts believe that this would deal a tremendous blow to ISIS. However, there is reason to be skeptical. CNN Military Analyst Lt. Gen Mark Hertling said “I’m not going to take this too seriously because there have been at least five reported killings of al-Baghdadi over the last three years.”