'US can not prove Islamic State chief is dead'


Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday the US can't confirm claims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Daesh's proclaimed "caliph", is dead.

"We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said this week it had "confirmed information" that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. "Right now, I can't confirm or deny it", Mattis said.

"We'll go after him until he's gone", Mattis said. But SOHR has been reputed to have a credible track record of reporting on the Syrian conflict.

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Russia's Foreign Ministry has said it is "highly likely" that Baghdadi has been killed in an airstrike carried out by the Russian Air Force in Syria.

Last month, the Russian Defense Ministry also announced Baghdadi's death; however, that report was discredited by SOHR and the U.S.

This file image grab taken from a propaganda video released on 5 July 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. While his death would mark a significant step in ISIS' reported loss of a stronghold in Syria and Iraq, national security strategist Fred Kagan told Politico that it would not mean that the danger of the terrorist group has passed.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that collects its information from sources inside Syria, has also said that it has "confirmed information" that Baghdadi has been killed.