Russia claimed on Friday that it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike on a meeting of IS leaders just outside the IS de facto capital in Syria.
The Russian defense ministry said that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.
If confirmed, it would mark a major military success for Russia, which has conducted a military campaign in support of Syrian president Bashar Assad since September 2015.
The air raid on May 28 that targeted an IS meeting held on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters, said the ministry, adding that the strike came as IS leaders gathered to discuss the group’s withdrawal from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.
It claimed that the military began planning the hit after getting word that the IS leaders were going to gather for a meeting to plan their exit to the south and that it had warned the US of the coming strike.
The Russian military sent drones to monitor the area and then dispatched a group of Su-34 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets to hit the IS gathering.
‘According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,’ it said in a statement.
The ministry also claimed that IS leaders Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah were among other extremist leaders killed in the raid.