ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was critically wounded and may have been killed after a U.S. airstrike hit a gathering of the militant group's leaders in a town in western Iraq.
Senior ISIS leaders were meeting in the border town of al-Qaim, near Mosul, when a U.S.-led airstrike reportedly hit the house where they were gathered. The strikes caused chaos, with ISIS fighters scrambling to bring the wounded to a nearby hospital and even using loudspeakers to ask for blood donations, Sky News reported.
The U.S. confirmed the attack, but did not say if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.
"This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL [ISIS] terrorist network and the group's increasingly limited freedom to maneuver, communicate and command," U.S. Central Command said.
This is not the first time reports claimed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by a U.S. airstrike. Back in September, Iraqi News reported that the ISIS leader was killed in an attack in Mosul. Thousands of social media users passed around a picture purportedly of the ISIS leader's dead body, but it was not actually al-Baghdadi.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has become one of the most powerful terrorist leaders in the world, and has been referred to as "the new Bin Laden." Many believe his leadership has allowed ISIS to eclipse al-Qaeda in power and relevance in the region.
"For the last 10 years or more, [al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri] has been holed up in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and hasn't really done very much more than issue a few statements and videos," Richard Barrett, a former counterterrorism chief with the British foreign intelligence service, told AFP. "Whereas Baghdadi has done an amazing amount — he has captured cities, he has mobilized huge amounts of people, he is killing ruthlessly throughout Iraq and Syria... If you were a guy who wanted action, you would go with Baghdadi."
It has not yet been verified whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in the latest U.S. airstrike.