- ISIS leader al-Baghdadi is reported to be hiding in the eastern Syria town of Boukamal
- The Syrian army declared victory over the town on Thursday but ISIS reclaimed half of the city by Friday
- Syrian opposition activists denied the claim, saying the government is only trying to make up for its losses after losing parts of the city again
- Al-Baghdadi has only appeared in public once in 2014 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is holed up in the eastern Syria town of Boukamal, according to a media outlet linked to the Syrian military.
Syrian opposition activists denied claims that al-Baghdadi was in Boukamal, also known as Abu Kamal, saying that the government is trying to make up for its losses it suffered while recapturing the city last week before again losing parts to extremists.
Syria's army declared victory over Boukamal on Thursday after a three-year occupation in the region. But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS reclaimed half of the city by Friday.
Al-Baghdadi was reportedly seen during Hezbollah operations with Syrian forces, backed by the Russian Air Force.
The American-led coalition said that it does not have "any reasonable information concerning the whereabouts" of al-Baghdadi.
The whereabouts of al-Baghdadi are not known, and if he is killed or captured it would be another blow for ISIS, which has lost more than 90 percent of lands it once controlled in Iraq and Syria where the group declared a caliphate in June 2014.
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The Syrian Central Military Media said that as Syrian troops and their allies conducted search operations in Boukamal, they "got the information" that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi might be "in one of the pockets" in the town.
The report did not elaborate on how the soldiers heard about al-Baghdadi or what they were doing about the information.
It was reported last week that al-Baghdadi had fled from Iraq, where he was believed to be hiding in the northeastern town of Rawa.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, and Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based opposition activist originally from Syria's eastern province of Deir el-Zour both denied the report that al-Baghdadi is in Boukamal.
In September, al-Baghdadi released an audio in which he urged his followers to burn their enemies everywhere and target "media centers of the infidels." It was his first purported audio in nearly a year.
Al-Baghdadi has only appeared in public once in 2014 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
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Russian officials said in June there was a "high probability" that al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group's de facto capital that the extremists lost last month.
U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.
Opposition activists say he is also likely somewhere in the wide desert that stretches toward Iraq.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who commands the coalition forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in September he believed Baghdadi is still alive.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon over video-link from his headquarters in Baghdad, Townsend said, "There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he's alive."
In August, Kurdish counter-terrorism official Lahur Talabany said he was 99 percent sure that al-Baghdadi had simply gone into hiding.
"Don't forget his roots go back to al-Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing."
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.