Middle East

Conflicting reports on IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's fate

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. File photo Image copyright AP
Image caption Baghdadi has been careful to reveal little about himself and his whereabouts

There are conflicting reports about the fate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State jihadist group.

An Iraqi interior ministry spokesman told the BBC Baghdadi was seriously wounded in a "coalition" air strike in March, without giving further details.

The Guardian newspaper quoted a Western diplomat and an Iraqi adviser as saying the air strike was in western Iraq.

The Pentagon said it had no information on Baghdadi's fate. Last year's reports of him being injured were inaccurate.

'Invisible sheikh'

The Iraqi spokesman, Brig Gen Saad Maan, told the BBC on Tuesday that Baghdadi was seriously wounded in the air strike.

He gave no details about which country carried out the raid, saying only that it was a "coalition air strike".

The US-led coalition has for months been carrying out strikes on IS positions in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, the UK's Guardian newspaper said the Western diplomat and the Iraqi adviser confirmed that the March strike happened in an area close to the Syrian border.

"Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him," adviser Hisham al-Hashimi said.

The strike targeted local IS leaders in a three-car convoy, and officials did not know at the time that Baghdadi was in one of the vehicles, the Guardian reported.

It also quoted a separate source as saying that Baghdadi's injuries were at first life-threatening, but he has since made a slow recovery. However, he has not resumed day-to-day responsibilities as the IS head.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Col Steve Warren told reporters the US military had no information on the fate of Baghdadi.

He added that the same reports had surfaced last month and that Al-Baghdadi had not been the target in that day's air strikes.

Separately, Col Warren told the Daily Beast: "We have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi."

Baghdadi has been careful to reveal little about himself and his whereabouts, and even his own fighters reportedly do not speak about seeing him face-to-face.

The IS chief also appears to wear a mask to address his commanders, earning the nickname "the invisible sheikh".

Profile: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi