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Kremlin declines to comment on whether IS leader killed

Kremlin declines to comment on whether IS leader killed”

In this file image made from video provided by Russian Defence Ministry press service on August 18, 2016, shows a Russian combat fighter bomber Su-34 unloads its bombs over a target in Syria.

Al-Baghdadi was said to have been killed in a US-led airstrike on June 14.

The U.S. -led anti-Islamic State group coalition says they have not been able to confirm that al-Baghdadi was killed.

"According to information that is checked through various channels, [ISIS] leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting", the ministry said in the statement first reported by the Russian state news agency Sputnik.

Al-Hashimi predicted that al-Baghdadi's death could splinter the organization into three groups: One will return to the mother al-Qaida group and form its arm in Iraq; another will join al-Qaida's branch in Syria known as Fatah al-Sham Front; and the third group, which is the weakest, will remain loyal to al-Baghdadi's ideology.

"According to information, which is being verified via different channels, the meeting was also attended by the IS leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated in the strike", Tass news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

In an e-mailed statement, Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Friday: "We can not confirm these reports at this time". He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin received reports from the ministry on a regular basis.

In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute strike early on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.

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The leaders were discussing their exit from the city through the so-called southern corridor, the ministry said.

The U.S. -led coalition's military campaign is now focused on ousting ISIS from its strongholds in Raqqa and in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Russian Federation in September 2015 launched a bombing campaign in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, after leading his fighters on a sweep through northern Iraq. Al-Hayali was killed in an August 2015 airstrike by the U.S.in Iraq.

The Defense Ministry added that it had warned the US of the coming strike.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria's war, said airstrikes on the road linked the villages of Ratla and Kasrat killed 18 people, while the activist-operated group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said 17 civilians were killed in the airstrike on buses carrying civilians. But Ganyard said Baghdadi's death, if confirmed to be true, may not have a lasting impact on the fight.

US special forces advising the SDF in the fight against ISIS are also believed to be stationed at the Tabqa base, which was captured from ISIS militants in March.



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