25 Apr 2019 10:43

Most ISIL leaders in Syria eliminated - Russian source

MOSCOW. April 25 (Interfax) - The majority of the leaders of the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist organization (banned in Russia) active in Syria have been eliminated, an informed Russian source told Interfax.

"ISIL leaders are hiding in different countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of them have fled to Libya and also European countries. Those who stayed in Syria have been eliminated. Only sleeper cells remain there," he said.

The source, however, declined to suggest where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding now and whether he is still alive, adding that "given the money the ISIL leaders have, they can change both their appearance and IDs and can hide in different countries."

The Associated Press reported in March, citing Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIL, that al-Baghdadi was likely to be still at large even though the group had recently lost its last territories in Syria and Iraq.

Igor Kostyukov, first deputy head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff, told Interfax in April 2018 that al-Baghdadi is most likely hiding in Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi, 47, born in Samarra, Iraq, is the world's most wanted man, with a $25 million bounty on his head.

Repeated reports about his death published over the past few years have been denied, and his current location remains unknown.

Al-Baghdadi last appeared in public in June 2014, when he delivered a sermon at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Iraq's Mosul, calling on Muslims around the world to pledge allegiance to the "caliphate".

None of the subsequent reports alleging his death has been confirmed.

An audio recording the voice on which was confirmed as that of al-Baghdadi was made in August 2018 - the last evidence that the ISIL leader is still alive and is not in captivity.