Baghdadi may be alive: Mattis
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday that he believes Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive, following various claims he was dead.
"I think Baghdadi's alive... and I'll believe otherwise when we know we've killed him," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.
"We are going after him, but we assume he is alive."
There have been persistent rumors that Baghdadi has died in recent months.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, last week said it had heard from senior IS leaders in Syria's Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
Russia's army said in mid-June that it was seeking to verify whether it had killed the IS chief in a May air strike in Syria.
With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Baghdadi has kept a low profile but was rumored to move regularly throughout IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria.
The Iraqi native has not been seen since making his only known public appearance as "caliph" in 2014 at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul, which was destroyed in the battle for Iraq's second city.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump yesterday attacked The New York Times and its "sick agenda," alleging that one of the paper's reports thwarted a US bid to take out Baghdadi.
"The Failing New York Times foiled US attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi. Their sick agenda over National Security," Trump wrote in one of a barrage of early morning tweets.