Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon cast doubt on the Russian’s government claim that Islamic State leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a late May airstrike.
Dillon’s comments come after Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told Russian media Friday there is a “high probability” Baghdadi was killed in the late May strike. Russia’s defense ministry made a similar June 16 claim, saying it had conducted a strike on an ISIS leader gathering and that “according to information that is being verified through various channels, the leader of ISIS … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was killed as a result of the strike.”
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters at the time, “we have no information to corroborate those reports.” Dillon reiterated Davis’s comments at a Friday briefing with reporters saying “we will hold fast with out previous statements, we do not have any definitive proof to corroborate their claims to that.”
“We would welcome the death of Al-Baghdadi,” Dillon added.
Dillon would not however confirm that Baghdadi was alive and simply said there was no new information on the terrorist leader’s whereabouts.
Russia’s original June 16 claim stipulated that Baghdadi was killed at a meeting of other senior ISIS leaders in Syria. The meeting would be highly unusual if it happened as described. Senior ISIS leaders are wary of gathering in one location for fear of U.S. drone strikes.
Former ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani reportedly surrounded himself with small children while sleeping to deter U.S. drone strikes. He refused to go outside during the day time and did not allow cell phones in his presence. Adnani lived in a crowded apartment building until intense fighting caused him to flee.
Only after Adnani fled the Syrian town in a car with an associate was he killed by U.S. drone strike in late November.
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