Here is an overview of the most daring reports on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s alleged capture, or even elimination, although unconfirmed.
The latest one arrived as the Turkish media outlet Yeni Safak claimed that al-Baghdadi had been captured by US forces in Iraq and consequently brought to the US base in Ras al-Ayn, Syria. The US-led coalition revoked the report dubbing it as "sadly false."
In June 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry said the most wanted jihadist might have been killed among other high-profile commanders as they gathered for debates on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa. The report proved to be unconfirmed, though.
At the same time the UK-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said in a statement that three Daesh leaders told the group’s activists that al-Baghdadi was dead, but did not specify how he had died. Baghdadi was then reportedly located in Syria’s Deir al-Zour province, near the border with Iraq. The group cited two sources among the Daesh top ranking commanders, while the two others belonged to the secondary leadership.
The earlier reports surrounding al-Baghdadi’s alleged death sounded less specific.
In June 2016 there emerged random reports saying the Daesh leader might have sustained injuries and was possibly even killed in an air raid in Syria by the US-backed coalition.
In October 2016 Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was said to be at death's door after being poisoned by a mysterious assassin in Iraq, a number of media outlets wrote. In 2015 there surfaced reports that he was severely hurt in a US airstrike in Syria.
Still, the notorious figure seemed to remain safe and sound, whatever the suppositions.
In September 2017, Daesh released a 46-minute tape, its authenticity promptly verified by the US intelligence. Al-Baghdadi was recorded cheering up his fellow commanders and urging them to persist in their effort.
Approximately at the same time Fox News quoted Yahya Rasool, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the official name of the mission to eliminate the Daesh terrorist group, as saying that there was "no verifiable data on Baghdadi’s health or whereabouts." But US forces have been informed that the members are still alive and "that includes some of its leaders who are in hiding." The spokesperson also said al-Baghdadi presumably sustained "severe injuries" on February 11 from an F-16 bomber strike in al-Qaim, which killed a number of his guards. His condition, according to Rasool, might not let him move freely between the two countries.
"The target was accurate. We hit the right place," Rasool insisted. "But he is a clever man. He has been doing this a long time. He knows how to move to protect himself."
According to the latest data, cited by global media outlets, the chief jihadist is hiding somewhere in the vast swath of desert between the Iraqi and Syrian borders. More specifically, the self-styled caliph is laying low, "living like a rat" between the border city of Al-Qaim in the Anbar governorate in Iraq and Abu Kamal in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor governorate, Rasool remarked.
In October 2011, the US officially pegged Baghdadi as a terrorist and offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to his capture or death.
Al-Baghdadi made his last public appearance in 2014, one year after he broke away from al-Qaeda. Back in June 2014 he climbed the pulpit of a landmark mosque in Mosul, a Daesh stronghold back then and anointed himself as the caliphate leader.
He has since released an array of undated audio recordings from anonymous locations, which immediately sparked speculations over him being already dead.