On June 16, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that al-Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike militant command post in the southern suburb of the city of Raqqa in late May. At the time, the information needed official confirmation, the ministry said.
There had already been several times when al-Baghdadi was reported dead. His death was reported in June and December 2016, April 2015 and November 2014. In April 2015, he was reported dead after an injury, and in October 2016, reports emerged that al-Baghdadi was poisoned. In January 2017, media reported that al-Baghdadi suffered heavy injuries in an airstrike.
In late June, a representative of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard said that the death of the Daesh mastermind was confirmed "through multiple channels," adding that al-Baghdadi was "definitely dead."
"Al-Baghdadi was the spiritual leader of Daesh. He claimed that he was a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed. He was an authority for those fighting in the ranks of Daesh and supporting its ideology. This is why it would be difficult to choose a new leader because this should be a man of authority," Fedorova told Radio Sputnik.
The expert pointed to the fact that the death of the leader and the recent military defeats pave the way for a split within Daesh.
"The struggle for leadership may result in a division of Daesh. In its statement, the terrorist group called to prevent its ranks from dividing and stay united. This is a signal that there may be some cracks already in its leadership," Fedorova said.
"If Daesh is divided the result will be numerous smaller extremist groups, each with its own leader. This is likely to complicate counterterrorism efforts in Syria and Iraq," Fedorova concluded.
Alexander Mikhailov, a member of the Russian Council for Foreign Policy and Defense, suggested that al-Baghdadi’s death will reduce the cash flows Daesh receives.
"The death of the leader will affect the funding of Daesh. Probably, the problem is who will pay to Daesh. Usually, funding is arranged for a certain leader," Mikhailov told Sputnik.
According to him, the death of al-Baghdadi was a "logical conclusion" to the long-lasting manhunt for the Daesh leader.
He added that the death of a terrorist leader usually results in redistribution of power within the group but Daesh terrorists are likely to continue their activities.
"We know that there is no single center [within Daesh], there are several such centers. Despite such a serious blow, Daesh is likely to remain active," Mikhailov pointed out.
At the same time, he underscored that Daesh has found itself "driven into a corner."
"The fight against terrorism will intensify. It’s an open season on Daesh. Even if they move to another region, for example, Afghanistan, it will be the same," he concluded.