Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears to be still alive, a top USA military commander said Thursday, contradicting Russia's claims that it probably killed the top counterterror target months ago. "We are looking for him every day", he declared.
He had seen little evidence to support the theory that Baghdadi was dead, he said.
Russian Federation claimed in mid-June to have killed Baghdadi in a May airstrike near the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa as he met with other top ISIS leaders.
"There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he's alive", he said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime monitor of the conflict, said in mid-June that it had heard from senior IS leaders in Syria's Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
Assessing his 12 months in command of the USA -led coalition, Townsend said more tough fighting remains but signs are positive.
Baghdadi's whereabouts have been unknown for some time.
"The last stand of ISIS will be in the middle-Euphrates river valley", said Townsend. At the time, it said: "We can not confirm this report, but hope it is true".
His statements follow the Iraqi prime minister's declaration of victory over the so-called Islamic state over Isis in the city of Tal Afar on Thursday. The U.S. has since offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or death.
The IS militants, who swept into Iraq in 2014 against minimal resistance from the Iraqi army, still control a large area of eastern Syria along the border with Iraq, as well as parts of Raqqa, the capital of the group's self-styled caliphate. "It's probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him". "As soon as we find out where he is, he will be", he said in July.