IS chief Baghdadi ‘probably still alive’, says US commander

Contradicting Russia’s claims that it probably killed the top terror target in Syria in May

Elusive leader of Islamic State (IS) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and likely hiding in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, a senior US general said on Thursday.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding in a remote border area between Iraq and Syria, said Gen Stephen Townsend, who commands the coalition forces fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

Townsend while speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters in Baghdad, said U.S. and coalition forces are actively searching for al-Baghdadi. If they find him, they will probably kill him rather than capture him alive, he said.

“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said.

“When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”

In June, Russia said there was a ‘high probability’ that Baghdadi had been killed in May in a Russian air strike on Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital in northern Syria.

With a US bounty of $25 million on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided intense efforts to seek him out for more than six years.

“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead…. There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive,” Townsend said.

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