Baghdadi killed in May 28 airstrike, claims Russia


Sporadic rumors have continued to mount that he was killed in a variety of US-led actions, but little evidence has surfaced to support those claims.

Forces opposed to IS have been closing in on Raqqa in recent weeks.

Having been forced into retreat across much of Syria, Isis' biggest remaining foothold in Syria is in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where Russian Federation is supporting a group offensive by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The lengthy statement went on to strike a conciliatory tone, saying Cuba wants to continue negotiations with the USA on a variety of subjects.

Thirty IS field commanders and up to 300 fighters were at the meeting in a southern suburb of Raqqa, the defence ministry said on its Facebook page.

Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based expert who advises several Middle East governments on Isis affairs, said he was sceptical about Russia's claim on Saturday.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, cast doubt on the report Baghdadi may have been killed.

The leader of the Islamic sect Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed following the strike, was also at the meeting, the ministry said.

Hours after the air strike, IS media released a video showing extensive damage to buildings and a number of dead people, mostly covered up, blaming "US air strikes".

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS said it could not confirm the Russian report that Baghdadi may have been killed.

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"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", the ministry said, according to the TASS news agency.

While campaigning previous year in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban-American population, Trump pledged to reverse Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba unless it met certain "demands", including granting Cubans religious and political freedom, and releasing all political prisoners. He said Baghdadi was in another remote area in Syria in May.

On Monday, IS released an audio message from its chief spokesman, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer, urging supporters to carry out attacks in the United States and Europe during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A character shrouded in mystery, Baghdadi's real name may be Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, and he may have been born in 1971 in Samarra, an ancient Iraqi city in the so-called Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad.

Reports suggest he was a cleric in a mosque in the city around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.

The group's current No. 2 is believed to be Ayad Abdul-Rahman al-Obeidi, also known as Abu Saleh Haifa, a former Iraqi army officer under Saddam Hussein. He was a prisoner at Camp Bucca - a U.S. detention centre hosting several Al Qaeda commanders - before proclaiming himself "caliph" of the IS in June 2014.

The Islamic State leader has a £20million bounty on his head because his hate-filled sermons inspired suicide attacks across Europe.

In October 2011, the United States officially designated Baghdadi as a terrorist. The offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his death or capture. It posted an image of the building in Raqqa that housed the IS leader's meeting and was destroyed in the strike.

However, the Russian military says it was still checking facts to confirm Baghdadi's death.

Stopping short of a complete turnabout, President Donald Trump is expected to announce a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of USA cash to the country's military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing US airlines and cruise ships to continue service to the island.