Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State’s supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive in Syria, a senior official at the Iraqi Interior Ministry said, refuting widely shared reports about the group’s founder’s death.
Abu ali al-Basri, head of the ministry’s intelligence and counterterrorism, said Baghdadi was still alive in Syria, but remains outside the city of Raqqa, Islamic State’s base there.
“According to monitoring cells and accurate information about his movement, and since we are more concerned with chasing and detecting the activity of Daesh (IS) leader and his followers, the Soqour (intelligence) Cell denies news about his death, and recently circulated information are untrue,” he told state-owned daily AlSabah.
Iraqi news reports, and later several international media outlets, have recently shared news quoting unnamed sources telling that IS had admitted its leader’s death in a statement, with alleged plans to name a successor.
Baghdadi’s only open appearance was in June 2014, when he ascended the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in western Mosul’s Old City to proclaim an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. He disappeared later and never showed up again, with occasional reports making speculations about his survival and whereabouts.
Russia said last month it was 100% confident of his death, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week it was also certain of the veracity of the reports.
Iraq declared victory over IS in the group’s largest stronghold in Mosul on July 9th, and a U.S.-backed Kurdish Syrian militia is advancing against the group’s base in Syria’s Raqqa.