U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Operation Inherent Resolve cast serious doubt on the claim from the Russian government about the late May air strike, where the Islamic State leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was supposedly killed. The claim also suggests that an additional 300 fighters for ISIS were killed in the airstrike attack that was conducted near Raqqa.
Dillion made this comment after the Russian media was told on Friday, by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov, that there was a “high probability” that Baghdadi was killed in May’s airstrike. A similar claim was made on June 16 by Russia’s defense ministry, stating that they had conducted an attack on a leader gathering held by ISIS, adding to the claim, they also released a statement, “according to information that is being verified through various channels, the leader of ISIS … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was killed as a result of the strike.”
US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, explained to reporters that, at the time, “we have no information to corroborate those reports.” Dillon backed up Davis’s comments with reporters at a Friday briefing saying, “we will hold fast without previous statements, we do not have any definitive proof to corroborate their claims to that. We would welcome the death of Al-Baghdadi,” Dillon added. Pentagon officials told the Washington Examiner that they “have seen no evidence that is true.”
However, Dillon would not confirm whether Baghdadi was alive, and would only declare that there was no new information concerning the whereabouts of the terrorist leader. “We do not have any definitive proof to corroborate their claims,” Dillon declared on Friday when speaking to reporters at the Pentagon.
According to the original claim set forth by Russia, it was stipulated that Baghdadi was killed while he was attending a meeting with other ISIS leaders while in Syria. It would be highly unusual if the meeting happened as described; sense senior leaders of ISIS were suspicious and afraid of a US drone strike, which is why they would be reluctant to be collectively present in one location.
In fact, it had been reported that Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a former spokesman for ISIS, was surrounded himself, while he slept, with small children, which he believed would deter a drone strike by the US. During the daytime, he refused to go outside, and he refused to allow cell phones to be in his presence. Until intense fighting forced him to flee the area, al-Adnani resided in an apartment building that was crowded. It was only after al-Adnani and an Associate was spotted running away from the town in Syria, late in November that he was killed.
Dillon says that America has not received any “concrete evidence” to deny or confirm Baghdadi’s status. He further asserts that if the leader is still alive, he has no power, authority or influence over any occurrences in Mosul, which is the location of the last remaining fighters for ISIS who are very close to being defeated by Iraqi forces.
“He has not been able to influence what is currently happening in Raqqa or Mosul or overall in ISIS as they continue to lose their physical caliphate,” spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon told media on Friday.
On Friday, a senior parliamentarian, speaking on behalf of Russia, said that there was almost a 100% probability that Baghdadi was killed in the airstrike, and on the same day, the coalition announced that a top financial officer of ISIS had been killed in a June 16 airstrike.
“Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a Syrian native and an experienced terrorist financial facilitator, moved millions of dollars for the terror organization’s attack and logistics network,” a written in a statement released by the coalition.
The airstrike, carried out at a location southeast of Raqqa, in the Euphrates River Valley, near the Syrian-Iraq border in Abu Kamal. The strike, operated on the behalf of the coalition, successfully struck several high-value targets in this area that ISIS was known to process financial, among other, resources, as reported by Dillon. Even though the focus in Syria is Raqqa, Dillion asserted “ISIS has no sanctuary wherever they hold ground.”
The coalition proclaims that Rawi, and his corporation in Abu Kamal, the Hanifa Currency Exchange, or possibly facing US sanctions for their support of terrorism, for the proclaiming that he utilized his networks to “move money into and out of ISIS-controlled territory and across borders on behalf of the group.”
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have occupied 45 square kilometers in and around Raqqa as their own territory during their three-week long campaign, according to Dillion, focused on ousting ISIS from the boundaries of the city
The SDF, led by the Kurdish, are battling ISIS in Raqqa on three different axes. “Intense clashes” in Western neighborhoods were reported by the campaign on Friday.
If indeed Baghdadi is dead, then experts say that it is likely that one of his two top lieutenants, both of home performed under the late Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein as Army officers, would most likely succeed him. While Islamic experts are unable to determine a predetermined successor, they regard the leading contenders Iyad al-Obaidi and Ayad al-Jumaili as the most probable, even though neither of them would be declared as the Muslims overall commander. Obaidi, a man in his 50s, has served as a war minister, while Jumaili, a man in his 40s, leads the Amniya security agency that serves Isis. Even though Iraqi state television reported that Jumaili was killed, a report has not yet been confirmed.
“Jumaili recognizes Obaidi as his senior but there is no clear successor and, depending on conditions, it can be either of the two (who succeeds Baghdadi),” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an advisor on ISIS affairs for a collection of Middle Eastern governments.
Both individuals have been members of the Sunni Salafist insurgency in Iraq since 2003. Since 2016, they have been recognized as top aides to Baghdad ever since the deaths of deputy Abu Ali al-Anbari, Chechen war minister Abu Omar al-Shishani and, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the Syrian chief propagandist.