The Pentagon on Monday said it could not corroborate reports coming out of Iraq that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been hit in a recent airstrike by U.S.-led coalition forces, though it acknowledged a lower-level IS person might have been a casualty.
The Pentagon on Friday had reported the coalition had targeted "battlefield leaders" in an airstrike near Mosul. An Iraq Interior Ministry intelligence official on Sunday told The Associated Press that Baghdadi had been wounded by an Iraqi airstrike early Saturday in the town of Qaim.
"Obviously, there’s a lot of conflicting reports out there on the fate of al-Baghdadi," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said at a Monday briefing, according to the news agency AFP. "But the bottom line from our perspective is we simply cannot confirm his current status."
Meanwhile, Iraqi state television was reporting that an aide to Baghdadi aide had been killed in a strike near the city of Fallujah, Reuters reported. The man was identified as Abu Huthaifa al-Yamani, though it was not immediately possible to confirm his role. No details were provided on where and when the strike occurred, nor have Iraqi security officials confirmed the death.
Warren said Monday it was likely that "tactical-level leadership" were hit in an airstrike Friday in Mosul."It was a 10-vehicle convoy, which we had reason to believe may have consisted of ISIL battlefield commanders or battlefield leaders," he'd said Friday, using another common acronym for the militant group.
Warren said the U.S. had not specifically targeted Baghdadi in Iraq. He repeated the mantra that the U.S. goal is to degrade and destroy the Islamic State.
Since Friday, the United States and its partners have pummeled Islamic State targets with 23 airstrikes in Syria and 18 in Iraq, the U.S. Central Command said, according to Reuters.
In Iraq, seven strikes hit near Baiji and others in or near Falluja, Mosul, al-Qaim, Haditha, Ramadi and Rutba.
The Islamic State group, which swept through northern Iraq in June virtually unopposed by the Iraqi army, has declared a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls.
Information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.