Russian Federation says it 'may have killed' ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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"According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike", the ministry said. It has offered a reward of up to $25m (£19.6m) for information leading to his capture or death.

"If he has been killed, of course it would deal a big blow to the group, but let's just look at the past few weeks - we've had major terror attacks in London, in Baghdad, in Tehran, in Kabul".

Asked about that claim at a Moscow news conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "I don't have a 100 percent confirmation of the information".

There have been previous reports of al-Baghdadi's death, which turned out to be untrue.

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As the leader of ISIS, which has seized and lost swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, he earned a reputation for brutality.

He emerged as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that later became Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in 2010 and then Islamic State (IS) in 2014, and rose to prominence during the failed merger with al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria (now Jabhet Fateh al-Sham). Both of their remaining strongholds - Mosul in Iraq and Syria's Raqqa - are under attack by various groups that are fighting under the cover of airstrikes by the USA -led coalition.

Al-Hashimi said the other IS leader, al-Beljiki, was unlikely to have been in Syria at the time of the attack.

A character shrouded in mystery, Baghdadi's real name may be Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, and he may have been born in 1971 in Samarra, an ancient Iraqi city in the so-called Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad.

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The Russians say that they had prior intelligence inputs that Baghdadi was holding a meeting in order to withdraw from Raqqa to south.

The Russian defence ministry statement said the strike was believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group in addition to Baghdadi, as well as around 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards.

The ministry added that it had warned the US of the coming strike.

"The Russians are trying to improve their record fighting Daesh as it was the Americans who have killed the top commanders of the group so far, like Abu Omar al-Shishani, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and Abu Ali al-Anbari", he said, using an Arabic acronym of Islamic State.

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Information for this article was contributed by Bassem Mroue, Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns of The Associated Press.

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