“We cannot personally verify the accuracy of this”, Haq said referring to the announcement of al-Baghdadi’s death. “We trust the reliability of the various sources of information that have been speaking up, but, obviously, any sort of information would need to be verified by the various authorities on the ground”.
The United Nations Monitoring Team on terrorist groups cannot confirm the killing of Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the Daesh leader, but takes American statements seriously and is going to engage with the United States to confirm it as soon as possible, the coordinator of the team, Edmund Fitton-Brown said in an interview.
“No, I don't have any confirmation of this. Our methodology is so that we treat the news with caution until we hear it expressed to us directly and in confidence by member states. All we have so far is the public announcement from the Americans, but it does seem like a very confident announcement. They seem very sure of themselves. They claim that they have verified it. And, of course, they would be setting themselves up to a considerable embarrassment if they hadn't. So I think that should be taken very seriously. I will be asking questions to Americans and others to try to get confirmation as soon as possible”, Fitton-Brown said.
The Monitoring Team is specifically mandated to liaise in confidence with counter-terrorism agencies of the UN member states.
The potential demise of the Daesh leader could mean “quite a lot”, Fitton-Brown said. According to the UN team coordinator, Daesh has been spreading propaganda that puts the movement itself above an individual, as “every human being is replaceable”.
“But I think the problem that they have is that this is happening just after they had the body blow of the military collapse earlier this year. They are in the situation where regenerating the leadership was more difficult than it would have been at another time, and they tried to do that, but there are lots of risks, because how do they position somebody? How do they get that person the loyalty and the authority that Baghdadi had, and how do they get all of that communicated without putting that person in the crosshairs as well? So I think for ISIL* this can be a very serious blow. But it's not enough to say that this is the beginning to the end, because they have too much support, I think, for it to be quite as dramatic as that”, Fitton-Brown said.
Daesh does not have the same “clear structure” as another terrorist group, al-Qaeda*, Fitton-Brown said.
“With al-Qaeda, you have a much greater sort of certainty of the order of succession. With ISIL for whatever reason yes, there are deputies, but there isn't one person who has been put forward as the heir apparent. So I think that's also a challenge for them”, he added.
The Monitoring Team is subordinate to the Security Council and the committees that deal with Daesh, al-Qaeda and the Taliban*. Two main functions of the Team are providing a threat assessment report on the three groupings and maintenance of the sanctions, as well as advising UN member states on whether to add or remove individuals or entities from the sanctions list.
The statements come after US President Donald Trump announced a day earlier the United States has hunted down al-Baghdadi in Syria's Idlib province and thanked Russia, Iraq, Syria and Turkey for their assistance during the course of the operation.
In the meantime, the Russian Defence Ministry said that it had possessed no reliable data regarding the US operation and had reasons to question its credibility.
Al-Baghdadi made his first media appearance in 2014 when the terror group declared itself a caliphate under Baghdadi's leadership. Since then al-Baghdadi made headlines multiple times with claims that he had been killed.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS), al-Qaeda, Taliban are terrorist groups banned in Russia