Asian, Iranian and Arab media reported Tuesday morning that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died on Sunday after his hideout was bombed by the U.S. led-coalition.
The news about al-Baghdadi’s death came after an Iraqi TV channel reported last week that the ISIS boss had been wounded near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Al Sumariya TV in Iraq cited local sources in Iraq’s Nineveh province who told the channel that al-Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders had been injured by a coalition airstrike on the Islamic State’s headquarters near the Syrian border. When Col. Chris Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, was asked if he could confirm the Al Sumariyah report, he said that he had “nothing to confirm” at that moment.
Tuesday, however, Indian and Iranian media reported they had evidence of al-Baghdadi’s death and released a video with images of what seems to be the corpse of the ISIS leader.
In Khabar, a Hindi-language news channel in India, was the first outlet that published the images.
Other media reported that Amaq News Agency, an outlet that is linked to ISIS, had published an official statement that read: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by coalition air strikes on Raqqa on the fifth day of Ramadan.”
The British news site Mirror, however, cited Iraqi security officers who claimed al-Baghdadi died in Mosul, Iraq.
“Iraqi aircraft hit Baghdadi’s convoy as it was moving towards Karabla to attend a meeting of the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist leaders,” the Mirror reported, citing an unnamed source in Iraq.
Al-I’tisaam Media, another ISIS-affiliated website, seemed to confirm al-Baghdadi’s death as well. The outlet published the following message on its Twitter account: “We will soon publish details about the killing of the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the nomination of a new Caliph for the Islamic State.”
Al-Baghdadi has been traveling around to avoid being captured or killed by his many enemies. He traveled from Syria to Mosul at least twice over the last six months and reportedly visited Libya, where he helped organize the conquest of a large part of Libya’s coastal plain.
The self-proclaimed caliph was born as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq. Al-Baghdadi later claimed the tribe he belonged to descended from the Prophet Muhammad. The ISIS leader obtained bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.
After the American invasion of Iraq, al-Baghdadi helped to found the Islamist group Jamaat Jaysh Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaah. He was arrested by U.S. forces on Feb. 2, 2004, but reportedly was released in December that year after he was designated “a low-level prisoner.” Other reports claim that al-Baghdadi remained in custody until 2009 and that he was imprisoned with other future ISIS leaders.
In May 2010, al-Baghdadi became the leader of Islamic State in Iraq, the official al-Qaida branch in the country, and organized a string of deadly suicide attacks that escalated after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. He remained the group’s leader until the founding of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that came into being after the group expanded its activities into Syria.
On June 29, 2014, al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, a move that was harshly condemned by many Islamic governments and led to a conflict with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The death of al-Baghdadi will likely be a serious blow to the Islamic State after the organization already lost more than 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria and suffered a string of battle losses recently.