Syrian state television is reporting that the infamous leader of the Islamic State and the most wanted terrorist in the world, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a massive airstrike that was carried out on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. However, al-Baghdadi’s death has been falsely reported before, leaving many wondering if this time the reports are accurate.
Al-Baghadi has a whopping $25 million bounty on his head for his role as the senior leader of the most vilified terrorist network on the globe. While ISIS’s official media wing has yet to confirm or deny the reports, other outlets also ran stories about the destructive airstrikes on Sunday and noted that seven civilians were reportedly killed.
Officials were operating under the belief that al-Baghdadi was hiding in the desert outside of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, from which he escaped as the Iraqi army successfully reclaimed it. In December, the Pentagon noted that al-Baghdadi had survived multiple attacks and was still eluding the military despite increased efforts to track him down.
“We do think Baghdadi is alive and still leading ISIL,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told CNN at the time, “and we are obviously doing everything we can to track his movements. If we get the opportunity, we certainly would take advantage of any opportunity to deliver him the justice he deserves.”
The State Department initially offered a $10 million reward for information leading to al-Baghdadi’s capture in 2011 but upped the sum in 2014 when ISIS seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq. Under his leadership, ISIS has leveraged a powerful social media presence to radicalize jihadist sympathizers across the globe, leading to the deaths of thousands of civilians in a slew of brazen terrorist attacks in the West and across the Middle East.