Earlier today, several news organizations, including the Inquisitr, reported about the death of Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi supposedly in a U.S.-led airstrike. However, even several hours after the initial reports trickled in, there has not been any official communication from the U.S. government or U.S. military officials confirming or denying the veracity of these reports.
In fact, people have started questioning these reports a few hours after they first appeared because of the silence of the U.S. administration over such an important development. Such a lukewarm response (or the total lack of any response at all) over the reports of the death of such an important figure was not seen as normal by most people.
The front page of @reddit currently features a fake, unsubstantiated story about Baghdadi being killed. Good job, guys.
— (((Jett Goldsmith))) (@JettGoldsmith) June 14, 2016
Now, more than 12 hours after the first reports of his death came in, The Independent reports that the news about the death of al-Baghdadi was indeed a hoax. The report by the British publication adds that the news of Baghdadi’s death was based on a digitally altered image (in Arabic) which was touted to be an official statement from the Islamic State. Several media outlets across the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, and several others from India and Russia fell for the altered image and reported about this major development. The much-touted image reportedly carried a statement that read,
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by coalition air strikes on Raqqa on the fifth day of Ramadan (10 June).”
The Independent also embedded a tweet which read,
Since I’ve been asked: sorry folks, but this purported IS claim of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death is fake: pic.twitter.com/9pEGUpOG5C
— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@ajaltamimi) June 12, 2016
Soon, the news of al-Baghdadi’s death was lapped up by media houses across the globe. Even in the midst of this, there was a continuous array of conflicting reports — some of which claiming that Baghdadi was not dead and that he was simply injured in an air strike.
Several media outlets also claimed that the Amaq news agency run by ISIS was behind the official statement that appeared on the image. The same agency had a day ago claimed that it was behind the Orlando massacre and the recent stabbings in Paris. However, they did not issue any statement pertaining to al-Baghdadi. The official radio of the Islamic State, al-Bayan, also did not make any reference to Baghdadi.
Meanwhile, some form of response from the military was seen after a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command revealed that they were aware of the news of al-Baghdadi’s death. Also conspicuous by its absence was an official statement from the U.S. Department of Defense which has had a history of announcing successful military strikes against high-profile targets.
Little is known about al-Baghdadi, who is believed to be a 44-year-old man born in Iraq. He was earlier known as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai and was born in the town of Samarra in Iraq. More than a decade ago, al-Baghdadi was briefly in U.S. custody. He was, however, let off after they found him to be a “low level” prisoner. Less than a decade later, he would go on to lead the Islamic State and its group of fighters which has gone on to capture a large swathe of land across the Middle East. The Islamic State now controls over 2 million people, all of which are subject to a strict interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law.
Baghdadi has also declared himself the leader of all the Muslims across the planet and enjoys the support of several terrorist groups who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The ultimate aim of the Islamic State is to establish an Islamic caliphate across the world.