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Has the leader of ISIS been hit in a US airstrike?

A US official said he couldn’t confirm if Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in a convoy destroyed by US-led airstrikes.

THE US-LED COALITION conducted a series of airstrikes targeting a gathering of Islamic State leaders near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a senior US defense official has said.

The airstrikes on Friday night destroyed a convoy consisting of ten Islamic state armed trucks, said the defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe military operations.

He confirmed that coalition aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes “against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders near Mosul,” using another acronym for the Islamic State group.

“We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present,” he said.

“We have no further information to provide regarding these strikes.”

According to the BBC, ISIS supporters have since denied that their commander was there.

Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

The Islamic State group has proclaimed al-Baghdadi as caliph, or supreme leader, of the vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria under its control and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.

Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million US bounty on his head.

Since taking the reins of the group in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaida into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.

Source: AP/Press Association Images ... Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Bombings

Despite the airstrikes by the US-led coalition, Sunni militants have continued to carrying out deadly bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians.

A suicide truck bomber struck the convoy of a top Iraqi police officer killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said yesterday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militants from the Islamic State group.

The late Friday attack happened when the suicide attacker drove his bomb-laden truck into the convoy of police Lt. Gen. Faisal Malik al-Zamel, who was inspecting forces in the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, police said. The blast killed al-Zamel and seven other police officers, while wounding 15 people, hospital officials and police officers said.

Meanwhile yesterday, a series of bombings in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least 43 people, with the deadliest blast hitting the city’s sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.

There has been an uptick in the number of bombings blamed on Sunni militants in the capital and mostly targeting Shiites, feeding sectarian tensions in the city, as the security forces of the Shiite-led government battle the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group to the west and north of the capital.

More recently, the attacks targeted Shiite pilgrims marking Ashoura, the highlight of the sect’s religious calendar.

Airstrikes

A US-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The Islamic State had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq’s rmy and police divisions to fall into disarray.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with Islamic State militants has been fierce.

The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.

Additional reporting, Daragh Brophy.

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