Multiple reports indicate that ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is dead. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has confirmed rumors and statements from Russian state media that suggested Al-Baghdadi was killed in an airstrike near Raqqa, Syria. However, the despite confirmation from the oft-reliable Observatory, there is still some trepidation and disagreement about whether or not Al-Baghdadi was amongst those killed in the strike.
For one thing, ISIS has not publicly acknowledged Al-Baghdadi’s death, and some ISIS news outlets are calling the report, essentially, fake news. That said, Agence France-Press indicates that the Syrian Observatory was working off ISIS sources to reach its conclusion. Another reason to take the report with a grain of salt is that the first reports that Al-Baghdadi was killed came from the Russian state news outlet Sputnik. The U.S military is also among those who remain skeptical that Al-Baghdadi was killed. Pentagon spokesman and U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis stated that “We have no information to corroborate those reports.”
However, not everyone in the U.S. government is as cautious in accepting the Al-Baghdadi reports. President Trump posted on Twitter Tuesday morning in celebration of the victory.
ISIS has been faced with numerous losses of late in Raqqa and Mosul — the latter city was just reclaimed by Iraqi forces. Russia and the United States also just brokered a Syrian ceasefire at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, during President Trump’s first in-person meeting with Vladimir Putin. It is unclear what link there might be, if any, between Russia’s decision to renew a ceasefire and the possibility that Al-Baghdadi was killed. Nor is it clear how the United States, Russia, and Assad might adjust their positions on the Syrian conflict if ISIS is no longer a player in the region.
(Via The Atlantic)