BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. and Iraqi officials fighting Islamic
State said on Friday they could not confirm a report by an Iraqi
TV channel that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had
been wounded in an air strike in northern Iraq.
A spokesman for the U.S.-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
Kurdish and Arab security officials in northern Iraq said they
also could not confirm the report.
Al Sumariya TV cited a local source in the northern province of
Nineveh saying that Baghdadi and other Islamic State 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 Shi’ite politicians and
Iraqi forces engaged in the battle against Islamic State.
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 U.S. earlier this year announced an intensification of the
war on Islamic State with more air strikes and more American
troops on the ground to advise and assist allied forces.
The U.S.-led coalition has regularly flown raids out of Erbil,
the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, in operations aimed at
killing and capturing Islamic State leaders.
A Kurdish intelligence official and an Arab from the Baaj area
west of Mosul said the U.S.-led coalition had conducted such a
raid there earlier this week. The coalition did not confirm this
Kurdish Peshmerga forces are positioned in an arc around the
north and east of Mosul while the Iraqi army is trying to capture
Falluja, 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 U.S.-backed Syrian opposition and Kurds are separately trying
to advance on Raqqa, the group’s capital in Syria.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Isabel Coles; Editing by
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