The Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) has confirmed the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, media reported Tuesday, citing an IS statement.
According to the Al Sumaria News broadcaster, Al-Baghdadi is dead and his successor will be named soon.
On June 16, the Russian Defence Ministry said Al-Baghdadi was likely eliminated as a result of a Russian Aerospace Forces strike on a militant command post in the southern suburb of the city of Raqqa in late May.
The ministry noted that it was in the process of confirming the information through various channels.
Al-Baghdadi appeared in the media for the first time in 2014 when he declared the creation of a caliphate in the Middle East.
Since then, the media outlets have reported several times about the death of the IS leader, though the information has never been confirmed.
NAN reports on June 23, experts said if Al-Baghdadi is confirmed dead, he is likely to be succeeded by one of his top two lieutenants.
Iyad Al-Obaidi and Ayad Al-Jumaili, both were army officers under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Experts on Islamist groups said they see no clear successor but regard Al-Obaidi and Al-Jumaili as the leading contenders, though neither would be likely to assume Baghdadi’s title of “caliph” or overall commander of Muslims.
Armed groups fighting in the region and U.S. officials say they have no evidence he is dead and many regional officials are skeptical about the reports of his death.
Obaidi, who is in his 50s, has been serving as war minister.
Jumaili, who is in his late 40s, is head of the group’s Amniya security agency.
In April Iraqi state TV said Jumaili had been killed, but that was not confirmed.