The leader of the Islamic State (Daesh) was badly wounded in a coalition airstrike last month, multiple sources told reporters, but the Pentagon said there was no evidence of the claim.
Citing an Iraqi adviser and an unnamed source with ties to the terrorist group, the Guardian reported Tuesday that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was badly wounded on March 18 in al-Baaj, a district of Nineveh about 200 miles west of Mosul, Iraq.
"Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on March 18 with a group that was with him," Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official who advises Baghdad on IS, told the Guardian.
An unidentified Western diplomat reportedly told the newspaper that on the same day, an airstrike hit a three-car convoy traveling between the villages of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan, killing three men. The attack targeted local IS leaders, but officials did not know if Baghdadi was among them, the diplomat said.
Iraq's Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, likewise told the BBC on Tuesday that Baghdadi was seriously wounded in a March airstrike but did not give further details.
The Pentagon has expressed doubt about the claims.
"We have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi," Army Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
The unnamed source, however, said the self-proclaimed caliph had suffered life-threatening wounds, which prompted IS leaders to meet and identify possible successors, according to the Guardian. Baghdadi has slowly recovered from the attack but has not assumed day-to-day control over the group's operations, the source said.
Two previous reports of Baghdadi being wounded in November and December proved false.
Late last week, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former army commander under Saddam Hussein who an Iraqi official described as the "mastermind of Islamic State in Iraq," was reportedly killed in northern Iraq.
By Fred Lambert
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