Islamic State Meets to Choose Leader’s Successor, SOHR SaysBy
The Islamic State summoned commanders and affiliate organizations to Iraq to choose a successor to their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing people it didn’t identify.
The SOHR, a U.K.-based monitoring organization, reported the planned meeting on its website. The information couldn’t immediately be independently verified and calls to the SOHR by Bloomberg News seeking further information weren’t answered.
There have previously been unconfirmed reports, including in March 2015 and in June 2016, that al-Baghdadi was seriously wounded in air strikes carried out by U.S.-led coalition forces. The air strikes have targeted Islamic State’s top military commanders since the group declared a caliphate in areas of Syria and Iraq two years ago.
"The Coalition has not received specific reports about Baghdadi’s condition,” Colonel Joe Scrocca, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve director of public affairs said in an e-mailed statement. Still, the meeting is another sign Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq and Syria and that pressure by Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces is challenging its command and control, he said.
In August, Russia and the U.S. both claimed their forces killed Abu Mohammed al-Adnani in an attack in Syria’s Aleppo province. Al-Adnani was the No. 2 figure in the radical Islamic organization after al-Baghdadi. Other targeted commanders include Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, also known as Abu Umar al-Shishani, the group’s minister of war, who was killed in an air strike in March.
Last month, al-Baghdadi released an audio message rallying fighters in Iraq, a day after Iraqi special forces began an offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul, where Islamic State declared the caliphate in 2014.