ISIS leader's fate unclear after air strike on meeting

Baghdadi is said to have crossed from Syria into Iraq to discuss "the setbacks taking place in Mosul" with other ISIS leaders.
Baghdadi is said to have crossed from Syria into Iraq to discuss "the setbacks taking place in Mosul" with other ISIS leaders.

BAGHDAD • The Iraqi air force has targeted a meeting of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) commanders that the terror group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have been attending, according to a statement.

It was not clear in Monday's statement from the Joint Operations Command, which is coordinating the fight against the militants in Iraq, whether the world's most wanted terrorist had been hit.

An intelligence cell monitored a convoy that the statement said had transported Baghdadi from Raqqa, ISIS' main Syrian stronghold, across the border to Al-Qaim in western Iraq. The statement said Iraqi F-16 jets struck a meeting of top ISIS commanders last Saturday, but provided no additional information on Baghdadi's fate.

"The direct strike on the meeting location led to the death of 13 Daesh (ISIS) commanders," said the statement, which gave a list of names.

The Iraq-born Baghdadi, who proclaimed a "caliphate" in June 2014, was not one of those names.

The Iraqi military has reported Baghdadi killed or wounded on numerous occasions since it launched a counter-offensive to regain the territory lost to ISIS almost three years ago.

Iraq's military said dozens of other ISIS militants were killed in other strikes in the same area, as part of the operation last week.

Baghdadi's health is unknown, but the Pentagon said six weeks ago that he was still alive and leading ISIS as it tries to defend the remnants of its crumbling "caliphate".

In its statement, the Iraqi military claimed that Baghdadi had come to the border area to discuss "the setbacks taking place in Mosul", Iraq's second-biggest city and the largest ISIS has held.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS leader's fate unclear after air strike on meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe