Experts Dismiss Reports Claiming Death Of ISIS Caliph By US Strike

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A statement circulating the internet and various media outlets claiming Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an air strike is a fake, according to experts.

The fake message reads “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by coalition air strikes on Raqqa on the fifth day of Ramadan” (June 10). Upon examination, several experts and researchers quickly dismissed the image of the message being circulated as a forgery.

Several media outlets in Iran, Iraq, Russia and Turkey all were deceived by the image, which was apparently poorly altered. Generally speaking, ISIS releases major announcements through its Amaq news agency propaganda wing, yet the group has issued no statement on Baghdadi’s death. ISIS took credit for both Sunday’s terrorist attack in Orlando and the Monday stabbing in Paris through Amaq.

Inaccurate reports of Baghdadi’s death have been fairly common since the U.S.-led coalition began fighting ISIS in 2014. Several media outlets reported that the so-called “Caliph” was injured in an air strike June 10, though the claim has yet to be confirmed.

Though Baghdadi was once believed to be in the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, some officials now believe he is currently on the move, attempting to avoid U.S. air strikes.

“We have no reason to believe that Baghdadi’s not still alive, but we have not heard from him since the end of last year,” said U.S. Special Envoy Brett McGurk Friday.

One official told CNN’s Barbara Starr that Baghdadi is using “extraordinary operational security” in order to keep his whereabouts a mystery.

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