The Russian military thinks it may have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Baghdadi’s death has been rumored many times, but so far none of those rumors have proven accurate. I wrote of Baghdadi in 2014:
Baghdadi, a nom de guerre, is the treacherous leader of ISIS (ISIL). The U.S. has already designated Baghdadi a “terrorist” and placed a $10m reward on information leading to his capture or death. It is clear that the latter choice is now mandatory.
Americans can get behind this option once the specific mission is explained to the American people as being in our compelling national interest. Strong national support and a specific achievable mission would help meet the essential elements of the original Weinberger/Powell Doctrine.
A specific targeted mission can be looked at in similar light as the 2001 mission to kill bin Laden and the 2006 bombing of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. Many allies in the region have an interest in taking out al-Baghdadi, including the Saudis, Turkey, and Jordan, as well as Iraq’s Shia and the Kurds.
The New York Times reports that the Russian claim comes with some hesitation.
The Russian statement was itself written cautiously, suggesting that the military remained uncertain about whether its strike had killed Mr. Baghdadi, a prize sought by several countries in the long struggle against the Islamic State.
“According to information which we are checking through various channels, the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was at the meeting and the strike destroyed him,” the statement said.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, introduced a note of caution while speaking at a news conference in Moscow. “Of course, I have heard these reports,” Mr. Lavrov said. “So far, I do not have 100 percent confirmation of this information.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has released before and after images of the buildings in which it thinks it may have killed Baghdadi, along with other top ISIS leaders.
Whether or not Baghdadi survives, ISIS will continue to fight. But oftentimes removing the head of the snake will incapacitate it so badly it can’t live for much longer. If it’s true that Russia has killed Baghdadi, perhaps the end of the conflict is near.
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