WASHINGTON: Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday he cannot confirm whether or not Daesh chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, after reports from Syria that the militant leader had been killed. “If we knew, we would tell you — right now, I cannot confirm or deny it,” Mattis said. “Our approach is we assume he is alive until it is proven otherwise, and right now I cannot prove it otherwise.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, said earlier this week it had heard from senior Daesh leaders in Syria Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
There was no official confirmation or denial of the news on Daesh-run social media outlets. “We will go after him until he is gone,” Mattis said. There have been persistent rumours that Baghdadi has died in recent months.