Confirming the deaths of insurgent leadership is complicated. Airstrikes have a way of complicating postmortem identifications. But reports indicate that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a US air strike in Raqqa.

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Baghdadi’s death, reported in the Turkish daily Yenis Safak, would be welcome news. It would mean the elimination of a charismatic leader with a cult like following, and could leave a leadership vacuum that would lead to more infighting in ISIS.

Yet al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of all Muslims, has been killed before–or so we were told.  Those previous reports were all a bit premature. The photos below are both examples of false reports.

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The initial reports this time say he was killed Sunday, June 12th, but the U.S. has yet to confirm the reports. Perhaps, after false alarms, they’re taking greater pains to confirm the facts.

The flip side to that is the very real possibility that this is just another red herring. The Pentagon is issuing plausible denials, saying that they’re unaware of any ISIS leadership being killed in the recent raids.

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Baghdadi claims to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad. He’s at the helm of the the jihadist element of ISIS, operating in Iraq and Syria.

His mystique for his followers comes from his almost ghost-like way of appearing and disappearing. There is a $10 million dollar bounty on him, too, which has driven him farther underground. Yet he still manages to be hugely influential.


But he still continues to shun the spotlight for an aura of mystery that adds to his appeal and his lack of public appearances means he still has a unprecedented $10million bounty on his head.

Baghdadi has a PhD in Islamic studies and was a professor at Tikrit University joined the insurgency after the 2003 U.S. invaded Iraq.  He refused to join al-Qaeda, though. Instead, he rallied a group of ISIS supporters who stood in opposition to al-Qaeda, and has gained significant influence as a result.

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