The Latest: Putin hears briefing on report of IS chief death
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Russian claim of killing Islamic State group leader (all times local):
The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has chaired a meeting of his security council to discuss the Russian military’s claim that it had killed the Islamic State group’s leader in an airstrike in Syria.
According to Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Friday’s meeting that the strike on Raqqa had killed “over 100 militants, among which there were members of the IS leadership, presumably including (IS leader Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said the information about al-Baghdadi’s death was still “being verified through various channels.” It posted an image of the building in Raqqa that housed the IS leader’s meeting and was destroyed in the strike.
Asked about the military’s claim at a news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “I don’t have a 100-percent confirmation of the information.”
The spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition is urging caution on reports that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed.
U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Friday morning that, “There have been several past claims of this kind that have been proven false and we have seen no definitive proof that this report is true either.”
However Dillon added, “the Coalition and the global community would welcome the news of al-Baghdadi’s demise.”
Regardless of al-Baghdadi’s personal status, Dillon said that the Islamic State group is “a losing organization” that would soon lose its control of its last two major urban strongholds — the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he can’t definitively confirm the death of the Islamic State group’s leader in a Russian airstrike.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed earlier Friday that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May, adding that the information about his death was still “being verified through various channels.”
Asked about the claim at a news conference in Moscow, Lavrov said: “I don’t have a 100-percent confirmation of the information.”
He added on a cautious note that if al-Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, its importance mustn’t be overestimated. Lavrov said that “past examples of similar actions to strike the leadership of terrorist groups were presented with much enthusiasm and pomp, but the experience shows that those structures later regained their capability.”
The spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition says he cannot confirm reports that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed.
The statement comes after Russia claimed it killed al-Baghdadi in an airstrike that targeted a meeting of IS leaders outside the IS de facto capital in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.
In an e-mailed statement, Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Friday: “We cannot confirm these reports at this time.”
The Russian military claims it has killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike.
The ministry said Friday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.
It said the air raid on May 28 that targeted an IS meeting held on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters.
The ministry said the strike came as IS leaders gathered to discuss the group’s withdrawal from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.