Did we kill Islamic State chief?
An air strike on a convoy of trucks containing some of the top leaders of the Islamic State may have killed their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reports from tribal leaders broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV, as well as other sources in Iraq, say that the precision strike "critically wounded" al-Baghdadi and killed some of his top lieutenants.
The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was “critically wounded” when a U.S.-led air strike targeted the western Iraqi border town of al-Qaim, tribal sources told Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.
U.S. Central Command confirmed in a statement that U.S.-led air strikes targeted ISIS leaders near their northern Iraqi hub of Mosul late Friday, without confirming whether Baghdadi was killed, AFP reported.
“This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL [ISIS] terrorist network and the group's increasingly limited freedom to maneuver, communicate and command," U.S. Central Command said.
Anbar province MP Mohammad al-Karbuli told Al Arabiya News Channel that coalition aircraft had targeted a gathering of ISIS leaders in al-Qaim that led to the killing of tens of people and wounded many more.
Karbuli said chaos ensued the air raid with ISIS members scrambling to transport their wounded to al-Qaim hospital which was overwhelmed with the number of patients.
Reuters news agency quoted two witnesses as saying an air strike targeted a house where senior ISIS officers were meeting, near al-Qaim.
The witnesses said ISIS fighters had cleared a hospital so that their wounded could be treated. ISIS fighters used loudspeakers to urge residents to donate blood, the witnesses said.
But the New York Times reports that there appears to be some confusion as to the exact location of the strike.
An Iraqi security official and a military commander said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.
Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.
A Defense Department official confirmed that coalition aircraft had carried out an air attack “against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders,” adding that it had destroyed a convoy of 10 trucks. But the official said the strike had been near Mosul, which is 180 miles from Qaim. The discrepancy in the reported locations could not be immediately explained.
The official also said there had been no confirmation that Mr. Baghdadi was at the meeting.
That's a great job by our intel people to get wind of that meeting in time for an air strike to blow up a lot of terrorists. You can bet IS leadership – what remains of it – will be looking closely at how word leaked out about their gathering.
I don't find the evidence of al-Baghdadi's death very compelling. But if the reports on the ground of the aftermath of the attack are even halfway reliable, you can chalk one up for the good guys.