US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says there is no evidence that Daesh chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, despite the Takfiri group’s confirmation that its ringleader “has been killed.”
“If we knew, we would tell you — right now, I can’t confirm or deny it,” Mattis told reporters on Friday.
“Our approach is we assume he’s alive until it’s proven otherwise, and right now I can’t prove it otherwise,” he added.
“We’ll go after him until he’s gone,” Mattis said.
There have been persistent reports that al-Baghdadi has died in recent months.
A local source in Iraq’s Nineveh province told Iraq’s al-Sumaria news
website on Tuesday that Daesh announced the death of its leader in a brief statement released via the terrorist group’s media outlet in the center of Tal Afar city, situated 63 kilometers west of Mosul.
Daesh’s ringleader, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (File photo)
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that collects its information from sources inside Syria, has also said that it has “confirmed information” that Baghdadi has been killed.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said it is “highly likely” that Baghdadi has been killed in an airstrike carried out by the Russian Air Force in Syria.
“It is highly likely that Daesh [leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi was eliminated in an airstrike of the Russian Air Force on a militant command post in a southern suburb of the city of Raqqah in late May,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told Sputnik news agency last month.
On June 16, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Baghdadi might have been among a group of terrorist leaders attending a so-called Daesh military council, and killed in a Russian strike of Syria’s militant-held city of Raqqah, which serves as the terrorists’ de facto capital in Syria, on May 28.