Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday he cannot confirm whether or not Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, after reports from Syria that the jihadist leader had been killed.
“If we knew, we would tell you — right now, I can’t confirm or deny it,” Mattis said.
“Our approach is we assume he’s alive until it’s proven otherwise, and right now I can’t prove it otherwise.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, said earlier this week it had heard from senior IS leaders in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
There was no official confirmation or denial of the news on IS-run social media outlets.
“We’ll go after him until he’s gone,” Mattis said.
There have been persistent rumors that Baghdadi has died in recent months.
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 46-year-old Iraqi 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.
‘I don’t know how Secretary Pompeo is not dragged in’: Ex-FBI counsel says Secretary of State must testify
On Monday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," former FBI general counsel James Baker told Chris Cuomo that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has to answer for the allegations laid out in the impeachment testimony.
"They wanted to give [Ukraine Ambassador Marie] Yovanovitch support, she asked them for support, they decided no, maybe because they thought the president would jump all over them. So what?" said Cuomo.
"The issue with her is that they wanted to and were inclined to get her out of the way, unless she was willing to play ball, unless she was willing to acquiesce in this sort of irregular channel and the goals of the irregular channel that Ambassador Taylor described," said Baker. "They were going to either get her out of the way, or have her join the team. This is what it seems to me was going on. They were trying to achieve these other objectives and they were going to either do it by forcing the career people to go along and compromise their values, quite frankly, or they were going to do it through the Giuliani channel."
Rudy Giuliani was not just working for Trump — he also said he worked for Pence: State Department testimony
One of the strangest moments of the testimony of State Department official David Holmes, as laid out in the transcript released by the House Intelligence Committee on Monday, was when Holmes told Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed to be working as an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.
"Was Rudy Giuliani representing his client as a private attorney?" asked Zeldin.
"I have never spoken with him, sir. So, I mean, you could ask him," said Holmes, but he added, "At one point he, Mr. Bakanov, told me that, you know, someone named Giuliani said he was an adviser to the Vice President."
Kurt Volker to ‘modify’ his testimony — and claim he was ‘out of the loop’ on Ukraine: NYT
President Donald Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine will "modify" his testimony to Congress during televised hearings on Tuesday.
"Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that he was out of the loop at key moments during President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to turn up damaging information about Democrats, according to an account of his prepared testimony," The New York Times reported Monday.