Islamic State figures killed in air strike; Baghdadi not believed among them

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Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi: Who Is Islamic State's Leader?

Eight senior figures from Islamic State were killed in an air strike while meeting in a town in western Iraq, but the group's reclusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not appear to be among them, residents of the town and hospital sources said.

Iraq said on Sunday its air force had hit the meeting and had also struck a convoy that was carrying Baghdadi to attend it. It said Baghdadi had been driven away from the convoy in an unknown condition.The Iraqi military's announcement was the latest unconfirmed report of the possible death or injury of Baghdadi, who has survived a year of U.S.-led air strikes and multi-sided wars in two countries since proclaiming himself caliph of all Muslims after his forces swept through most of northern Iraq last year.

SEE MORE: Russia just handed ISIS a 'big win' in Syria's largest city

A Twitter site which publishes statements from Islamic State said "rumors" that an air strike had targeted Baghdadi were false.

The United States military declined to comment on the Iraqi military's report.

"Iraqi air forces have bombed the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while he was heading to Karabla to attend a meeting with Daesh commanders," the Iraqi military said in a statement.

RELATED: ISIS destroys temple in Palmyra:

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ISIS destroys temple of Baalshamin, Palmyra
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Islamic State figures killed in air strike; Baghdadi not believed among them
This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. A resident of the city said the temple was destroyed on Sunday, a month after the group's militants booby-trapped it with explosives. Arabic at bottom reads, "The moment of detonation of the pagan Baalshamin temple in the city of Palmyra." (Islamic State social media account via AP)
This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows shows explosives in the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. A resident of the city said the temple was destroyed on Sunday, a month after the group's militants booby-trapped it with explosives. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO on Monday called the destruction of the temple a war crime. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra rigged with explosives. A resident of the city said the temple was destroyed on Sunday, a month after the group's militants booby-trapped it with explosives. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO on Monday called the destruction of the temple a war crime. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows the demolished 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. A resident of the city said the temple was destroyed on Sunday, a month after the group's militants booby-trapped it with explosives. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO on Monday called the destruction of the temple a war crime. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Islamic State militants beheaded 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, a leading Syrian antiquities scholar who spent most of his life looking after the ancient ruins of Palmyra, then hung his body from a pole in a main square of the historic town, Syrian activists and the scholar's relatives said Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. (SANA via AP, File)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. A Syrian official said Wednesday, June 24, 2015 that the Islamic State group has destroyed two mausoleums in the historic central town of Palmyra. (SANA via AP, File)
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Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Karabla is a town in Iraq's Anbar province near the Syrian border, an Islamic State stronghold, not to be confused with Kerbala, a Shi'ite holy city in the south.

"The location of the meeting was also bombed and many of the group's leaders were killed and wounded. The fate of murderer al-Baghdadi is unknown and he was carried away by a vehicle. His health condition is still unclear," the military said.

Hospital sources and residents said airstrikes hit two houses and killed eight senior local leaders of an Islamic State police force in the town.

Islamic State supporters said on Twitter that even if Baghdadi had been killed, his self-proclaimed caliphate straddling large areas of Iraq and Syria would survive.

"Do you think we would leave the State of the caliphate and abandon it, oh vile world?," asked one of his followers. "This is the religion of God, it rose on the skulls of heroes and martyrs and every time one of them is martyred we rise."

Baghdadi has galvanized militants from around the world, encouraged by his military successes and plans to redraw the map of the Middle East to create a self-sustaining caliphate.

His successes prompted the United States to re-engage in Iraq with air strikes against his fighters three years after pulling out following a long, costly occupation.

Russia, which has launched a bombing campaign to aid its Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad, says its main enemy is Islamic State as well.

An Islamic State fighter reached by telephone could not confirm whether Baghdadi had been in a convoy that was struck, but said the group would fight on whatever his fate: "Even if he was martyred then it will not affect Islamic State. We will lose a leader but there are a thousand Baghdadis."

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