US Led Airstrikes Hit ISIS Leaders In Iraq Killing 50
But was top commander Abu Bakr al Baghdadi injured?
The US-led airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq are in full swing, and reports have now stated that an attack against the militants near the rebel-controlled town of Mosul targeted a meeting of key figures, killing 50.
Sky News reports that the senior ISIS commanders were meeting in Qaim, northern Iraq, when coalition airstrikes targeting the house and 50 militant bodies have since been transported to the morgue. Arab news website Al-Arabiya states that witnesses claimed that many ISIS fighters evacuated the area to a nearby hospital, demanding that local residents donate blood to treat the wounded militants.
There are unconfirmed reports that the top leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was critically injured or even killed in the strikes, however there is high speculation as to whether this is true. Washington has placed a $10million (£6million) bounty on Baghdadi’s head.
"This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the IS terrorist network and the group's increasingly limited freedom to manoeuvre, communicate and command” “[But] we cannot confirm if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was among those present. We have no information to corroborate press reports”, said United States Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Patrick Ryder.
The Pentagon is also sceptical about the media reports of Baghdadi’s fate, according to Fox News, despite Iraqi defence ministers issuing statements detailing that he had been seriously wounded, as well as a spike in talk by ISIS-affiliated social media accounts that the chief had been killed or injured – but it is alleged that this could be a US plot to force al-Baghdadi out of hiding and make a ‘proof of life’ assertion.
The news comes after US President Barack Obama outlined what he called a ‘new phase’ in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including more airstrikes to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops, as well as the deployment of 1,500 US soldiers to train and assist forces – doubling the size of the US ground offensive. BBC News reports that Iraqi forces have seized control of around 50 per cent of the town of Baiji, home to nation’s largest oil refinery.
Obama explained during an interview on CBS Face The Nation, “Phase one was getting an Iraqi government that was inclusive and credible – and we have done that”.
“So now, what we’ve done is rather than just halt ISIS’ momentum, we’re now in a position to start going on some offense. The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIS’ capabilities and slowing their advancement. Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops that can start pushing them back”.
“What we learned from the previous engagement in Iraq is that our military is the best. We can always knock out any threat. But when we leave, that threat comes back”.
Obama raises a valid point, as although the airstrikes have seen success in targeting an location with key ISIS figures, the threat may not be completely destroyed. And others have emphasised that even if Baghdadi was killed, that will not be the end of ISIS.
The fight against the extremists will be a long battle not only against the group itself, but the ideologies that create the group in the first place and has also birthed other terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram .
“If he is in fact dead, yes it will deal a major blow to the organisation but let's not forget there are other commanders both in the military and political wings that can replace al Baghdadi”, said US national security analyst Arash Aramesh.
“This organisation with one dead leader is not going to be finished”.