A senior Russian diplomat has said that the head of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was most likely killed in a Russian air strike.
Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on June 22 that "according to the Defense Ministry's information, there is a high probability that [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi has been killed when the Russian Air Force hit the militants' headquarters on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in late May."
Syromolotov didn't offer details. The Defense Ministry first made the claim on June 16, saying that Baghdadi's death in the May 28 strike was still "being verified through various channels." Syromolotov similarly said that verification efforts continue.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier on June 22 that Russia did not have proof of Baghdadi's death.
Syromolotov said that the demise of the seldom-seen IS leader would mark a "major success in the fight against international terrorism," and would spread "fear and panic" among rank-and-file militants.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, RIA Novosti, and Interfax