The fate of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was unclear owing to conflicting statements issued by Iraq’s interior ministry and the Pentagon, which could not confirm reports that the Sunni radical group leader was in a convoy hit by coalition forces.
Iraq’s interior ministry Sunday said al-Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike late Friday, which killed several senior leaders of the extremist group. State-run Al Arabiya news channel also quoted local tribal sources as saying that al-Baghdadi was “critically wounded” in the attack, The Independent reported.
But neither the US nor Iraqi officials were able to provide further details. A security official from Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh told Xinhua that he could not confirm reports, saying an airstrike by the US-led coalition targeted a convoy of vehicles near the city of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province.
Mohammed Ibrahim, head of security committee of Nineveh’s provincial council, said that at least two senior IS figures, Libyan and Saudi nationals, were among the dead during the coalition airstrikes.
The Pentagon has released a statement saying that it “cannot confirm if (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present”, nonetheless adding that the strikes as a whole “demonstrate the pressure we continue to place on the IS terrorist network”.
Chief of the British armed forces Gen. Sir Nicholas Houghton told BBC Monday that he was confident there was at least a strong chance the IS leader may have been successfully targeted. However, he too could not “absolutely confirm” that al-Baghdadi was in the convoy.