Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a reputable monitoring group.
SOHR Director Ramy Abdel Rahman said a “1st tier and two 2nd tier ISIS commanders from Deir Ezzor” confirmed Baghdadi’s death, but Rahman also told CBS News that SOHR’s sources “could not say when Baghdadi died, or whether he succumbed to injuries he sustained in an attack.”
If true, the ISIS leader’s death would be a big blow to the terrorist group.
Reuters reported Tuesday that U.S. military officials said they had “no reason yet to believe al-Baghdadi was dead,” CBS reported.
While Russia claimed to have killed Baghdadi at the end of May in an airstrike outside Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria, U.S. and Iraqi officials said there was no evidence to support the claim.
Baghdadi has been reported dead multiple times since 2014, when ISIS took a deep stronghold in northern Iraq and Syria. He was last heard from in Nov. 3, 2016, audio message. Baghdadi only appeared in a video once, in 2014, speaking to people at the mosque in Mosul.
The Iraqi Security Forces recently took back Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq that ISIS had controlled. The city is now surrounded by U.S.-backed and Syrian forces, according to reports.
Iraq took back the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul that was the self-proclaimed caliphate, or area ruled by a Muslim leader, of the Islamic State, in June.
ISIS, which had flown its black flag from the minaret on the mosque since June 2014, can no longer claim the major city in northern Iraq as its caliphate.
About two-thirds of the population in Iraq is Shiite. ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group. The two groups have an historic, deep-rooted rift. The Sunnis regard Shiites as apostates, or people who have abandoned their religious beliefs.
There had been particularly terrible fighting for several months leading up to the capture of the mosque.
While the Islamic State does still rule over territories in other parts of Iraq, “[these] setbacks have reduced [the] Islamic State’s territory by 60 percent from its peak two years ago and its revenue by 80 percent, to just $16 million a month,” according to IHS Markit, an analytics firm, Reuters reported.
IHS Markit also said ISIS occupies an area across Iraq and Syria that is “as big as Belgium,” Reuters reported.
According to a Reuters TV reporter, the mosque and minaret are now mostly rubble.
Mosul was ISIS’ largest population center, according to CBS.