The Russian army said they had targeted senior Daesh leaders in an air strike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was among those killed.

Baghdadi has not been seen in public since proclaiming himself "caliph" in the Iraqi city of Mosul three years ago.
Baghdadi has not been seen in public since proclaiming himself "caliph" in the Iraqi city of Mosul three years ago.

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqa may have killed Daesh leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in late May.

The air strike was launched after Russian forces in Syria received intelligence that a meeting of Daesh leaders was being planned, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

"On May 28, after drones were used to confirm the information on the place and time of the meeting of Daesh leaders, between 00:35 and 00:45, Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located," the statement said.

"According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State [Daesh] leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike," the ministry said.

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

The strike is believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group, as well as around 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards, the Russian defence ministry statement said.

The Daesh leaders had gathered at the command centre, in a southern suburb of Raqqa, to discuss possible routes for the militants' retreat from the city, the statement said.

The United States was informed in advance about the place and time of the strike, the Russian military said.

Daesh fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group's territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Russian forces support the Syrian regime which is fighting against Daesh mainly from the west, while a US-led coalition supports Iraqi government forces fighting against Daesh from the east.

The last public video footage of Baghdadi shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul's medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from Al Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group's leader, Osama bin Laden.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies