Media outlets in Iran, Iraq, Russia and Turkey appeared to have fallen for a digitally altered image claiming to be a media statement from the so-called Islamic State.
The supposed missive was quoted as saying: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by coalition air strikes on Raqqa on the fifth day of Ramadan (10 June).”
The report spread around the world as it was picked up by media in India, the UK and elsewhere but was swiftly discredited, while conflicting accounts said al-Baghdadi had been injured in an air strike on his convoy in Iraq.
There was no statement from Isis via its Amaq news agency, which it used to claim responsibility for the Orlando massacre and stabbing in Paris.
News bulletins from Isis’ al-Bayan radio station also had no mention of an air strike affecting its self-declared “caliph”.
There have been several false reports of al-Baghdadi’s death in the past, although he was said to be severely injured in air strikes early last year.
A spokesperson for US Central Command, which is co-ordinating air strikes in Iraq and Syria, told The Independent it was aware of media reports but had no information to provide.
The American Department of Defense routinely announces successful strikes targeting high-profile extremists swiftly, such as in the death of "Jihadi John" in Syria and Afghan Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour.
Isis is currently facing an advance from both rebels and the Syrian army near its de-facto capital of Raqqa and is fighting to hold the Iraqi city of Fallujah, as well as its Libyan stronghold of Sirte.
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