BBC News, 16 June 2017
Russia’s defence ministry is investigating whether one of its air strikes in Syria killed the leader of the Islamic State militant group (IS).
The ministry said an air strike may have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and up to 330 other fighters on 28 May.
It said the raid had targeted a meeting of the IS military council in its de-facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria.
There have been a number of previous reports of Baghdadi’s death.
A statement by Russia’s defence ministry published by the state-funded Sputnik news agency said 30 IS commanders and up to 300 soldiers were at the Raqqa meeting.
“According to information that is checked through various channels, IS leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting,” it added.
Baghdadi’s whereabouts have been unknown for some time, although he was believed to be in Mosul in Iraq before a US-led coalition began an effort to reclaim the city in October 2016.
His only public appearance since claiming the creation of an IS caliphate was in a video in June 2014, in which he was seen delivering a sermon in Mosul after IS took control of the city.
Since then, the group has lost considerable amounts of territory and has been under pressure from air strikes by Russian-led forces and the US and its allies.
In March, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that “nearly all” of Baghdadi’s deputies had been killed.
“It is only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets this same fate,” he added.