Russia claiming to have killed ISIS leader in airstrike
Is he or isn't he?
There are a lot of questions today about the man who may be the most wanted man on the planet.
Russia is claiming to have killed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi, in an airstrike last month.
The Russian Defence Ministry suggests al-Baghdadi was killed along with other senior group commanders, adding that the information about his death is still "being verified through various channels.''
However, when asked later about the claim, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "I don't have a 100-per cent confirmation of the information.''
Pentagon officials say the United States can't confirm it, ISIS communications channels haven't even mentioned it.
There have been numerous reports in the past of al-Baghdadi being killed but they did not turn out to be true. The IS leader last released an audio on Nov. 3, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the Iraqi city against a major offensive that began weeks earlier.
The report of al-Baghdadi's death comes as IS suffers major setbacks in which they have lost wide areas of territory and both of their strongholds _ Mosul in Iraq and Syria's Raqqa. Both are under attack by various groups who are fighting under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.
Russia's Defence Ministry says the air raid on May 28 that targeted an IS meeting held on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters.
It was not clear why al-Baghdadi, who is known to move around with great secrecy, would attend a meeting in an area frequently targeted by the coalition, along with 300 IS fighters in attendance.
The ministry says the IS leaders were gathered to discuss the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital. It says the military began planning the hit after getting word that the group's leadership was to meet to plan their exit to the south.
The Russian military sent drones to monitor the area and then dispatched a group of Su-34 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets to hit the IS gathering.
"According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,'' the military said in a statement.
The Defence Ministry added that it had warned the U.S. of the coming strike.