Iraq claims attack on convoy of ISIS leader

BAGHDAD • The Iraqi military said it had attacked a convoy in Iraq's western Anbar province that included Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

But a US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the United States had no information to confirm that Baghdadi or any other senior ISIS commanders had been targeted or struck in western Iraq in recent days.

The Iraqi military claims periodically that senior ISIS commanders have been killed, apparently as a means of raising morale. Baghdadi has a US$10 million (S$13.9 million) US bounty on his head and his whereabouts have been the subject of speculation since his only public appearance as ISIS chief last year.

The statement, which appeared to take the US by surprise, said that Iraqi aircraft had struck "the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while he was heading to Karbala to attend a meeting with Daesh commanders". Daesh is an Arabic name for ISIS.

The statement issued by Iraq's Defence Ministry said Baghdadi was "transported in a vehicle" after the strike but added that "his health status was unknown". The meeting place was also struck and several ISIS leaders already gathered there were killed or wounded, it said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said "the strike was yesterday (Saturday) at noon".

Residents in western Iraq said there had been an air strike in recent days, which set off rumours that Baghdadi or other senior militants might have been hit.

"We have no information to corroborate that report," a Pentagon official said of the Iraqi statement.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'Iraq claims attack on convoy of ISIS leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe