A US military commander said on Aug. 31 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and hiding in the Euphrates River valley between Iraq and Syria.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition, said in a conference call with reporters.
Townsend said he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdadi is precisely, but he believes the reclusive extremist leader may have fled with other IS militants to the river valley region after IS lost control of its former bastions in Mosul, Tal Afar, and parts of Raqqa.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said, using another well-known acronym for the extremist group. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
There have been reports of Baghdadi’s death as recently as June, when the Russian Army said it was trying to verify whether he died in an air strike in Syria.
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead,” said Townsend. “There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive.”