Iraq investigating Islamic State chief's fate after air strikes
Iraq was on Sunday investigating whether Islamic State jihadist group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in air strikes by US-led coalition warplanes targeting the group's leaders.
Baghdad: Iraq was on Sunday investigating whether Islamic State jihadist group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in air strikes by US-led coalition warplanes targeting the group's leaders.
The death of the elusive Baghdadi would be a major victory for the coalition of countries carrying out air strikes against IS and aiding Iraqi forces fighting to regain large areas of Iraq that the jihadists have overrun.
The announcement of the strikes came after President Barack Obama unveiled plans to send up to 1,500 more US troops to Iraq to advise and train the country's forces, deepening Washington's commitment to the open-ended war against IS.
"Until now, there is no accurate information available," a senior Iraqi intelligence official said when asked about whether Baghdadi had been killed.
"The information is from unofficial sources and was not confirmed until now, and we are working on that," the official said without specifying what the initial reports indicated.
US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, yesterday said that coalition aircraft conducted a "series of air strikes" against "a gathering of (IS) leaders near Mosul".
"We cannot confirm if (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present," said Centcom spokesman Patrick Ryder.
The US-led strikes late Friday were a further sign of "the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL terrorist network," he said, using another acronym for the Islamic State group.
The aim was to squeeze the group and ensure it had "increasingly limited freedom to manoeuvre, communicate and command".
"I can't absolutely confirm that Baghdadi has been killed," General Nicholas Houghton, the chief of staff of the British armed forces, told BBC television on Sunday. "Probably it will take some days to have absolute confirmation."
Washington has offered a USD 10 million reward for his capture, and some analysts say he is increasingly seen as more powerful than Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.