Report: Russia killed top ISIS leader in airstrike

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The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that it is working to confirm reports that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russia-led airstrike in Syria.

On May 28, Russian Su-34 aircraft and an Su-35 multirole fighter carried out airstrikes in northern Syria near the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. According to the ministry, the strikes targeted a meeting of high-ranking ISIS leaders that al-Baghdadi reportedly attended.

The ministry released a statement which noted that the purpose of the targeted meeting was for ISIS to plan “routes for the exit of militants from Raqqa through the so-called ‘southern corridor.’”

Those reportedly killed in the strike included Emir of Raqqa Abu al-Haji al-Masri, Emir Ibrahim al-Naef al-Hajj, “who controlled the district from the city of Raqqa to the settlement of es-Sohne” and ISIS head of security Suleiman al-Sawah.

“According to information, which is being checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was killed as a result of the strike,” the statement said.

The ministry added that Moscow has shared intelligence regarding the time and place of the airstrike with its American partners.

During a Friday press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “I don’t have 100 percent confirmation of the information concerning the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

The US-led anti-ISIS coalition echoed Lavorv’s statement.

“We cannot confirm these reports at this time,” Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR), said in a statement.

Al-Baghdadi had been named as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the US Department of State.

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