Iraqi officials say an air strike wounded the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
raqi officials have said that an airstrike wounded the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such a strike or Baghdadi being wounded.
Iraq’s Defense and Interior Ministries issued statements saying Baghdadi had been wounded, without elaborating.
An Interior Ministry intelligence official told The Associated Press that Baghdadi was hit during a meeting early Saturday with militants in the town of Qaim in Iraq’s western Anbar province.
The official, citing informants within the militant group, said the strikes wounded Baghdadi. A senior Iraqi military official also said he learned in operational meetings that Baghdadi had been wounded.
Neither knew the extent of Baghdadi’s apparent injuries. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential material. State television later also reported that Baghdadi had been wounded.
Since taking the reins of the group in 2010, Baghdadi has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaida into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.
Washington has offered a $10 million reward for his capture, and some analysts say he is increasingly seen as more powerful than al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
A US-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Isil militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive.
Isil had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq’s army and police divisions to fall into disarray.
On Friday, President Barack Obama authorised the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with Isil militants has been fierce.
The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 US troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorised.