IS chief may be dead, says Russia: No information to support claim

REUTERS  Ivan Alvarado

REUTERS Ivan Alvarado

Both of their remaining strongholds - Mosul in Iraq and Syria's Raqqa - are under attack by various groups that are fighting under the cover of airstrikes by the US -led coalition.

It also claimed that about 30 mid-level field commanders and up to 300 militants acting as bodyguards were also present.

Russian Su-34 aircraft and an Su-35 multirole fighter launched the airstrikes following drone footage confirmation of the council's meeting location, the statement said. The Russian Defense Ministry said the information about his death was still "being verified through various channels".

"We will enforce the ban on tourism", the president continued.

The ministry said Friday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

U.S. authorities offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.

"We can not confirm these reports at this time", said US Army Colonel Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for the coalition's Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq.

The airstrike was carried out on May 28 against a command post, where the IS group's leaders were meeting to discuss the routes for the terrorists' exit from Raqqa through the "southern corridor", the ministry said in a statement.

Coalition forces led by the U.S. stated that it could not verify the Russian claim that Abu Baghdadi may have been eliminated.

In 2014, following his group's rapid capture of Mosul and vast swathes of western Iraq, he declared himself from the pulpit of al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City of Mosul the new caliph, leader of the entire Muslim nation, a title abolished in 1924 with the fall of the Ottoman Empire. He said that according to his information, Baghdadi was located in another part of Syria at the end of May. Others suggest he was radicalised during the four years he was held at Camp Bucca, a United States facility in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.

He was freed in 2009, and within a year was the leader of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate, heading up a renewed campaign of bombings and assassinations.

The new moves are only a partial reversal of Obama's policies, however, but they will burden the US government with the complicated task of policing U.S.travel to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

So far, there has been minimal reaction from online supporters of IS to news of the reported death of the group's leader, BBC Monitoring reports.

"I'm not going to take this too seriously because there have been at least five reported killings of al-Baghdadi over the last three years", he said.

However, the Russian military says it was still checking facts to confirm Baghdadi's death.

President Trump said his new policy also will restrict the flow of American dollars to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of the government led by President Raul Castro.

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