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Kristopher Drake
June 19, 2017

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters he was still seeking the facts of what had happened, saying, "I do not have 100% confirmation of the information about the elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi".

The Russian Air forces eliminated two top Islamic State (IS) field commanders and some 180 terrorists during airstrikes in Syria in early June, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

The ministry said the strike came as IS leaders gathered to discuss the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital.

The claim of al-Baghdadi's possible death comes almost three years to the day after he declared himself the leader of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, from a historic mosque in Mosul.

IS sympathisers typically ignore reports from unofficial IS sources or ridicule them, especially given that Baghdadi's death has been reported several times in the past. The army said that Baghdadi might have been killed along with around 30 other ISIS military commanders and 300 militants.

The ISIS attacks killed Yehya Mohammed Shehadeh, a commander from the tribal forces operating with the SDF.

If confirmed, it would mark a major military success for Russian Federation, which has conducted a military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015.

A US -led coalition is assisting Iraqi forces in the Mosul battle and supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Arab and Kurdish militias, in Raqqa.

On Monday, IS released an audio message from its chief spokesman, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer, urging supporters to carry out attacks in the United States and Europe during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It added that Washington was informed in advance about the place and time of the strike near the jihadists' Syria stronghold, which is now under assault by US-backed fighters.

However, the US-led coalition said it could not immediately affirm whether Baghdadi was killed.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, cast doubt on the report Baghdadi may have been killed.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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