Pentagon Chief Says He Thinks ISIS Leader Baghdadi Is Alive

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Washington: Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday that he believes ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive, following various claims he was dead.

“I think Baghdadi’s alive… and I’ll believe otherwise when we know we’ve killed him,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters.

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“We are going after him, but we assume he is alive.” There have been persistent rumors that Baghdadi has died in recent months.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, last week said it had heard from senior ISIS leaders in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.

Russia’s army said in mid-June that it was seeking to verify whether it had killed the ISIS chief in a May air strike in Syria.

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Baghdadi has kept a low profile but was rumored to move regularly throughout ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi native has not been seen since making his only known public appearance as “caliph” in 2014 at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul, which was destroyed in the battle for Iraq’s second city.