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Russia claims it has killed Islamic State leader

Russia claims it has killed Islamic State leader


The Russian military claims it has killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was killed on 28 May along with other senior group commanders, according to the Russian defence ministry.

The strike targeted an IS meeting held in the southern suburbs of Raqqa as IS leaders gathered to discuss the group’s withdrawal from their de facto capital, the military said.

More than 300 fighters were killed by the air raids, including 30 mid-level militant leaders, it added.

Al Baghdadi’s death, which has not yet been confirmed by coalition forces, would mark a significant military achievement for Russia, which has been active in Syria in support of President Bashar al Assad since September 2015.

Smoke rises from the al-Mishlab district in south-east Raqqa. Picture: June 7
Image:
Smoke rises from the al-Mishlab district in south-east Raqqa. Picture: 7 June

The IS leader has been reported dead before.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that they understood Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the Raqqa gathering.

Russian drones had been monitoring the area in expectation of IS leaders gathering to plan their exit to the south of Raqqa.

When the gathering was confirmed, a group of Su-34 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets were sent to strike it.

“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 Russian military said.

It added that it had warned the US of the strike in advance.

A man displaced by fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants carries his daughter in Mosul's al-Zanjili's district, Iraq June 7, 2017
Image:
A man displaced by fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants carries his daughter in Mosul’s al-Zanjili’s district, Iraq, 7 June

The report of the IS leader’s death comes as defeat looms over the group.

US-backed forces seized a western district of Raqqa earlier this month, just days after capturing an eastern part of the city.

The tiny streets around the Al Noori mosque in the group’s stronghold in Iraq “are a battlefield” reported Stuart Ramsay, Sky News’ Chief Correspondent in Mosul.

“Islamic State is being beaten here and, in time, will fall,” wrote Ramsay.

“But their ideology of hate has already spread to Europe and the rest of the world. The threat from terrorists returning to their home countries is real.

“The physical battle is here in Mosul, but the war is everywhere.”

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