A Pentagon spokesman said July 11 that he hopes reports of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are true and advised the terror group to develop a "strong succession plan."
In response to a query from Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland about the alleged death of Baghdadi, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort against ISIS, said the US cannot confirm reports of his demise, but added that the Pentagon "hope[s] it is true."
"We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed," the spokesman continued.
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.
A monitoring group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Newsweek on July 11 that it had confirmed Baghdadi is dead based on information received from the second in line for ISIS leadership.
"(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor," Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. "We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how."
Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. (DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.)
Reports of Baghdadi's death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS' capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.
Since 2014, Baghdadi has been reported dead numerous times. The State Department has placed a $25 million dollar bounty for any information leading to his capture.