Isis commanders killed in Iraqi air strikes targeting Baghdadi, but leader's fate remains unknown

​Leading cleric behind Isis’s ideology who last made public address in November has been reported wounded or dead several times before 

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The Independent Online

The Iraqi air force has carried out strikes targeting a compound where Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was thought to be meeting other commanders, the military has said.

The names of 13 senior Isis figures killed in the strike in West Iraq on Saturday were published on Monday, but Baghdadi’s was not among them, making it unclear whether the leader had been hit. 

At least 64 other lower-ranking Isis fighters were killed in F-16 air strikes on four other extremist targets, a defence ministry statement said. 

Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

Iraqi intelligence believes the Iraqi cleric, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai, travelled from Isis’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria to al-Qaim, just over the Iraqi border, to discuss “the collapse happening in Mosul and to chose a successor for him”.

His last public message appeared in November 2016, when he called on Isis supporters to defend the group against the huge US-backed coalition efforts to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the extremists’ hands. 

The battle – which since mid October has killed at least 1,000 civilians and displaced more than 200,000 from their homes – is still raging, as Iraqi coalition troops and militia forces struggle to make gains in the western side of the city.

Isis captured almost a third of Iraq in its 2014 blitz across the country from neighbouring Syria. While the group lost almost a quarter of its territory in 2016, Iraqi forces are now intent on stopping jihadi fighters from fleeing from West Mosul back into Syria.