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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, July 19, 2018

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Is the world’s most dangerous terrorist group headless?

Mystery surrounds ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death

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RAQQA, Syria - Several times in the past, the media has speculated about the death of one of the world’s most feared man, the man who laid the foundation of a terrorist outfit, that would grow to become the biggest threat facing the world.> BNN
 
However, each time the world media speculated about the death of the leader of the Islamic State militant group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - more atrocities followed and the man was proven to be alive and plotting much bigger attacks. 
 
Now, the Syrian state-run TV has claimed, more decisively this time, that al-Baghdadi has been killed in an air strike in the country.
 
While authorities stated that the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa was bombed heavily overnight on Saturday, the report was followed by a statement in the terrorist group’s Amaq news agency, that revealed the damage.
 
In July 2014, al-Baghdadi, proclaimed a “caliphate” that covered territory in both Iraq and Syria and reports of his death have been circulated even since then.
 
Soon after, ISIS claimed Raqqa as a key city in its self-declared caliphate and made it a hub for the organisation’s activities and attacks in Syria, Iraq and other regions.
 
The terror group took over all levels of civil administration, rewriting school curriculums, establishing Islamic courts and creating police units to implement Islamic law - masterminded by al-Baghdadi. 
 
Earlier this year, U.S. and Iraq authorities believed al-Baghdadi had abandoned his fighters and gone into hiding as Iraqi forces continued to make inroads into Mosul.
 
A month later, in April, a documentary called him the world’s most wanted man with a bounty of $25 million on his head.
 
He managed to avoid capture by Iraqi special forces “by minutes” after escaping through a trapdoor.
 
Reports revealed details about his escape days after al-Baghdadi’s deputy Ayad al-Jumaili was killed in an air strike.  
 
In the process, Raqqa became the scene of some of ISIS’s worst atrocities, including gruesome executions, public displays of bodies and sex trafficking.
Many governments, including Russia, Turkey and the U.S.-led coalition - have all been trying to rid Raqqa off the terror group, by bombing the ISIS in the city since 2014.
 
Last year, in November, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance, launched a major offensive dubbed “Wrath of the Euphrates” to take Raqqa.
 
Worst affected were the estimated 300,000 civilians that were believed to have been living under ISIS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 who fled there from other parts of the country.
 
However, as the SDF drew closer to the city, thousands were smuggled out to territory newly captured by the U.S.-backed fighters.
 
As the coalition achieved a set of victories in the surrounding province - the SDF sealed off the approaches to Raqqa city from the north, east and west.
This week, the SDF said its forces entered the city from the eastern district of Al-Meshleb.
 
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition has been backing the SDF with air strikes, equipment and special forces advisers.

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