ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "is definitely alive," a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official said Monday, sweeping aside multiple recent reports claiming the world's most sought-after terrorist was dead.
Just last week the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Iraq's Al Sumaria news reported Baghdadi's death -- but Kurdish counter-terrorism official Lahur Talabany told Reuters those rumors aren't true.
"Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive," Talabany said. "Don't forget his roots go back to Al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing."
The most wanted terrorist was rumored to have been killed multiple times after he declared a caliphate on the territory ISIS seized in Iraq and Syria in 2014. In June, Russian forces claimed they had killed Baghdadi in an airstrike, but top Russian defense officials weren't able to back up the assertion.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited a high-ranking ISIS source for its alert announcing the death of the shadowy leader. The organization has had a good track record in reporting ISIS news, though the Pentagon couldn't confirm the report.
Iraqi forces announced they had recaptured Mosul from ISIS earlier in July after the city spent nearly three years under the terror group's control. ISIS is now shifting tactics as it receives growing pressure in Raqqa, its de facto capital, Talabany said. He added it would take at least three to four years to totally eliminate the group in Iraq and Syria.