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 Islamic state leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10- minute night- time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group’s stronghold.
“According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike,” the ministry said.
The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State 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 IS 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.
Islamic State 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 government which is fighting against Islamic State mainly from the west, while a U.S.-led coalition supports Iraqi government forces fighting against Islamic State from the east.