Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in rough shape after a March 18 airstrike near the Syrian border in western Iraq, sources tell the Guardian, but there are conflicting reports on the matter. The leader of ISIS initially faced life-threatening injuries as a result of the strike by the US-led coalition but is now recovering, one source says, but he adds that the leader isn't yet in a state that he can control the terrorist group as he once did. A western diplomat and an Iraqi adviser tell the Guardian that an airstrike took place that day in the al-Baaj district of Nineveh, targeting local ISIS leaders in a three-vehicle convoy. Three men were reportedly killed. The Iraqi official says al-Baghdadi was injured in that strike; however, the Pentagon says it can't confirm the report.
A Pentagon rep says an airstrike did occur on the date in question, but it didn't target the leader or any other high-ranking officials. "We have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi," the rep tells the Daily Beast. Sources have inaccurately claimed that al-Baghdadi was wounded in airstrikes at least twice before, but Iraqi spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan tells the BBC that al-Baghdadi was indeed injured this time. A Guardian source adds that the leader was known to hide out in al-Baaj because the US military "barely had a presence there" during the Iraq War. "It was the one part of Iraq that they hadn't mapped out." The Sunni tribal area has become a focus of US surveillance this year. (Read more Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stories.)