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President Obama did not free Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi from prison

October 30, 2019 GMT

CLAIM: President Barack Obama freed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from prison during his presidency.   

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Islamic State group leader, who died Saturday during a raid on his compound by U.S. forces, was not released in the Middle East under Obama. 

THE FACTS: Al-Baghdadi was not detained at Guantanamo Bay prison nor was he released during Obama’s two-term presidency, from 2009-2017. The false claim resurfaced after it was revealed that he had died in a raid on his hideout in Syria. The false claim first circulated on social media in 2014. 

Posts with the false claim resurfaced on Monday on Facebook and Twitter following President Donald Trump’s announcement Sunday that al-Baghdadi had died after being cornered by U.S. special operations forces. 

According to the Pentagon, al-Baghdadi was detained by U.S forces in 2004 and sent to Camp Bucca prison in Iraq for anti-U.S. militant activities. He was released after 10 months and then joined the al-Qaida branch in Iraq. Following the deaths of senior leaders in the group, he rose to lead IS in Iraq. 

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson confirmed to The Associated Press that Al-Baghdadi was released from Camp Bucca after being held for ten months. He said there is no information indicating he was imprisoned again and released in 2009.  

Trump said al-Baghdadi died during a raid Saturday when he detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children. He had been cornered by U.S. forces north of Idlib, Syria. 

A $25 million reward had been offered for information leading to the capture of al-Baghdadi, one of the few IS leaders still at large. In recent years, he made audio recordings calling for his extremist followers to release IS members from jails and camps.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: