Some intelligence indicates Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi remains alive, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Thursday.
Townsend emphasized he was speaking personally but noted that “some indicators in intelligence” indicate Baghdadi remains alive along with no specific intelligence that he had been killed. “We are looking for him every day,” he declared.
The general speculated that Baghdadi was likely in the middle Euphrates river valley in Syria where U.S. commanders believe the terrorist group will “make its last stand.” Townsend elaborated that the U.S. would likely not go to the “trouble to try to capture him,” adding “when we find him, I think we’ll probably just try to kill him first.”
In previous briefings, Townsend would not comment on Baghdadi’s status. “We’ve heard all kinds of reporting. Quite honestly, I hope he’s deader than a doornail. As soon as we find out where he is, he will be,” he said in July. After being pressed repeatedly he exclaimed “I don’t have a clue.”
Baghdadi’s death has been previously reported multiple times. “Top-tier commanders from ISIL who are present in Deir az Zor province have confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, emir of the Islamic State group, to the Observatory,” Syrian Observatory of Human Rights director Rami Abdulrahman said in July.
The Russian government also claimed to have killed Baghdadi in a late May airstrike but has provided no definitive proof.
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