WASHINGTON — ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive, Gen. Stephen Townsend — the commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria — told reporters at a televised press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.
“Do I believe he is alive, yes,” he told reporters. “Why, because I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intel, open source, or other rumor or otherwise that he is dead.”
Multiple sources including the Russian government and human rights watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have reported the demise of the ISIS leader and mass murderer in previous reporting.
However, U.S. officials have never confirmed those reports.
“There’s also some indicators and intelligence that he’s still alive,” Townsend added.
Though the whereabouts of the reclusive leader are still unknown and no proof of life of Baghdadi has surfaced in recent months.
“He could be anywhere in the world,” Townsend said. “He’s probably somewhere in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” he said, calling it an educated guess.
Based on the pure powers of deduction and the last year of offensive operations conducted by the coalition and partner forces various possible locations for the ISIS leader have already been struck off the list, according to Townsend.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.
“He’s not in Mosul — he’s not in Tal Afar — I don’t think he’s in Raqqa anymore,” Townsend said, striking off locations recently liberated areas or cities currently under siege by coalition forces and their partners.
The coalition is still looking for Baghdadi every day, according to Townsend.
“When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first,” he said, answering a question about capturing the elusive ISIS leader.
“I’d be equally just as satisfied killing him,” Townsend said.