World

ISIS leader 'probably still alive': US general

WASHINGTON: Elusive Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and likely hiding in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, a senior US general said on Thursday.

"We're looking for him every day. I don't think he's dead," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, told reporters.

General Townsend admitted he didn't "have a clue" where Baghdadi is precisely, but believes he may have fled with many other ISIS soldiers into the Middle Euphrates region stretching from Syria to Iraq, after coalition and local force assaults on the IS bastions of Mosul, Raqa and Tal Afar.

"The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley," General Townsend said.

"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."

With a US$25 million (S$34m) bounty on his head, the Iraq-born Baghdadi has evaded capture for six years or more.

UK-based conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in mid-June that it had heard from senior ISIS leaders in Syria's Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.

"I've seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumour or otherwise that he's dead....

"There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he's still alive," said General Townsend. - AFP

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