MS Risk Blog

Syrian Observatory Announces Confirmation of Death of IS Leader

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights disclosed on Tuesday 11 July that it had “confirmed information” that Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed. The report comes just days after the Iraq army announced that it had recaptured the last sectors of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Baghdadi’s forces overran almost exactly three years ago.

On Tuesday, Rami Abdulahman, the director of the British-based war monitoring group, disclosed, “(we have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank who is Syrian, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor.” Abdulrahman further disclosed that activists working with him in Deir al-Zor had been told by IS sources that Baghdadi had died. They however did not state when or how. Sources also indicated that Baghdadi had been present in the astern countryside of Syria’s Deir al-Zor province in the past three months.

Officials in Iraq and in the US however have so far not confirmed the report. In Iraq, US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition that is fighting IS, stated that he could not confirm the new, while the top US general in Iraq later stated that the coalition had no concrete information. Speaking at a news briefing, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend disclosed, “despite all the helpful reports to us from every source imaginable, I’m unable to confirm or deny whether he is, or whether he is alive or dead. Let me just say for the record, my fervent hope is it is the latter.” Kurdish and Iraqi officials have so far not commented on the report. In the US, the Pentagon stated that it had no information to corroborate the reports. While Baghdadi’s death has been announced several times before, the Observatory has a record of credible reporting on the Syrian conflict. So far. IS-affiliated websites and social media feeds have not said anything.

In June, Russia’s Defense Ministry disclosed that it might have killed Baghdadi when one of its air strikes hit a gathering of IS commanders on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa.   While at the time, Russian officials indicated that they were nearly 100% sure that Baghdadi was amongst those killed, authorities in Washington disclosed that they could not corroborate the death. Furthermore, Western and Iraqi officials remained sceptical.

What is clear is that the death of Baghdadi, who declared a caliphate governed by Islamic law from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, would be one of the biggest blows yet to the jihadist group, which is trying to defend rapidly shrinking territory in both Syria and Iraq.

The United States put up a US $25 million reward for his capture, the same amount as it had offered for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. It currently remains unknown if anyone will claim the bounty. IS leaders killed in Iraq and Syria since th US-led coalition began its air strikes include Abu Ali al-Anbar, Baghdadi’s deputy; IS’ “minister of war,” Abu Omar al-Shishani, who was a close military adviser to Baghdadi; and Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, one of the group’s most prominent and longest-serving leaders.