US, Iraqi officials can’t confirm ISIS leader wounded
US and Iraqi officials fighting ISIS said on Friday they could not confirm a report by an Iraqi TV channel that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been wounded in an air strike in northern Iraq.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the radical Islamist militants, Colonel Chris Garver, said in an email that he had seen the reports but had “nothing to confirm this at this time.”
Kurdish and Arab security officials in northern Iraq said they also could not confirm the report.
Al Sumaria TV cited a local source in the northern province of Nineveh saying that Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders were wounded on Thursday in a coalition air strike on one of the group’s command headquarters close to the Syrian border.
The channel has good connections with Shiite politicians and Iraqi forces engaged in the battle against ISIS.
There have been several reports in the past that Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai, was killed or wounded after proclaiming himself caliph of all Muslims two years ago.
The ultra-hardline Sunni group is under increased pressure in both Iraq and Syria, and the territory under its control has shrunk significantly since 2014, limiting the potential for its leaders to move around or seek shelter.
The US earlier this year announced an intensification of the war on ISIS with more air strikes and more American troops on the ground to advise and assist allied forces.
The US-led coalition has regularly flown raids out of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, in operations aimed at killing and capturing ISIS leaders.
A Kurdish intelligence official and an Arab from the Baaj area west of Mosul said the US-led coalition had conducted such a raid there earlier this week. The coalition did not confirm this raid.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces are positioned in an arc around the north and east of Mosul while the Iraqi army is trying to capture Fallujah, the group’s stronghold near Baghdad.
The Iraqi army is also massing tanks and troops south of Mosul, in preparation for an offensive planned later this year to retake the largest city under the control of the militants.
In Syria, Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian government forces and US-backed Syrian opposition and Kurds are separately trying to advance on Raqqa, the group’s capital in Syria.