Russia Suspects It Killed ISIS Leader Weeks Ago
Ministry says airstrike killed 30 commanders
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2017 4:18 AM CDT
Updated Jun 16, 2017 5:44 AM CDT
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This file image made from video posted on a militant website in 2014 is believed to show ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.   (AP Photo/Militant video, File)

(Newser) – The Islamic State might have been without a leader for more than two weeks, according to Russia's defense ministry. The ministry announced Friday that it suspects ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a May 28 airstrike near Raqqa, Syria, the BBC reports. After drones confirmed that ISIS commanders were holding a meeting, "Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located," the ministry said in a statement, per Reuters. "According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike."

Russia says several senior ISIS leaders, around 30 commanders, and around 300 fighters were killed in the strike on the meeting, which was being held to discuss a possible retreat from the besieged city that has served as the capital of the ISIS "caliphate." The ministry says the US was informed of the strike. The New York Times notes that although Russia has an extensive intelligence operation targeting ISIS, it is possible that the announcement of the leader's possible death is a tactical move intended to help Russian forces by confusing and discouraging ISIS fighters. (Al-Baghdadi hasn't been heard from since he released a message in November 2016 urging fighters to hold their ground in the battle for Mosul.)

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