Washington: Shooting down claims that Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi was killed in an air strike, United States Defence Secretary James Mattis said that the Islamic State leader Baghdadi is still alive.
“I think Baghdadi’s alive… And I’ll believe otherwise when we know we’ve killed him. But, we’re going after him. We assume he’s alive,” Mattis was quoted as saying.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, had last week said it had heard that Baghdadi was dead.
Baghdadi has USD 25 million US bounty on his head and has kept a low profile since last few years. However, he was rumored to move regularly throughout ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria.
Last month, the Russian military claimed it had struck a meeting of Baghdadi on May 28 near Raqqa, Syria, in which Baghdadi was possibly killed.
Multiple other reports in recent weeks have suggested that Baghdadi was killed in Iraq or Syria. Since making his public appearance as caliph in 2014, he has not been seen.
Recently, Pentagon officials have said that Baghdadi no longer is involved in the Islamic State’s day-to-day operations.
However, Mattis claimed said Baghdadi still has a role to play in the outfit.