Middle East

Iraqi air force 'kills 77' in strikes aimed at IS leader Baghdadi

This file image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Baghdadi last delivered a public message in November

The Iraqi air force has killed 13 commanders of so-called Islamic State in a strike on a building in Qaim where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was thought to be, a statement said.

Baghdadi's name was not on a list of the dead published by the military.

At least 64 lower-ranked IS fighters were killed in a wave of strikes in western Iraq, the statement added.

The military said Baghdadi moved last week in a convoy from Raqqa, in Syria, to the region of Qaim, over the border.

The IS leader was supposedly meeting other senior commanders to discuss a possible successor, as well as the group's military situation in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.

Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, last delivered a public message in November, urging IS fighters not to retreat as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul.

He has been reported wounded and even dead several times in the past.

IS is locked in a protracted battle with Iraqi forces for control of Mosul and has lost all of the city's eastern side.

The group lost almost a quarter of its territory in 2016, according to research published earlier this month.

It gave up almost 18,000 sq km (6,900 sq miles), reducing its territory to 60,400 sq km, just less than the size of Florida, security and defence analysts IHS Markit reported.