Russia: Daesh leader al-Baghdadi may have been killed in Syria

Trump to announce a plan to stop cash flow to Cuba's military and security services

Trump to announce a plan to stop cash flow to Cuba's military and security services

Uncertainty surrounds the fate of the head of the Islamic State group.

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqa may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May, Russian news agencies reported.

Other state media reported that more than 300 "terrorists" were killed in the strike. The Russian Defense Ministry said the information about his death was still "being verified through various channels". "So far, I have no 100 per cent confirmation of this information yet", Lavrov said during a news conference in Moscow.

The claims have emerged as Russia's defence ministry has started an investigation as to whether one of their air strikes on Syria could have been responsible for the militants's death.

Pentagon spokesman and US Navy Captain Jeff Davis said, "We have no information to corroborate those reports".

Al-Baghdadi, believed to be in his mid-40s, last released an audio message November 3, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defended the Iraqi city against a major offensive that had begun weeks earlier.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group's territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, after almost three years ruling over millions of people in a wide area in both countries.

As the leader of ISIS, which has seized and lost swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, he earned a reputation for brutality.

The battle for Raqqa was launched a few days after al-Baghdadi's supposed killing, at a time when most of the group's commanders have relocated to Mayadeen, a remote town in the heart of Syria's IS-controlled, Euphrates River valley near the Iraqi border. Their relocation could extend the group's ability to wreak havoc in the region and beyond for months to come. It also claimed responsibility for the June 3 London attack that killed eight people. There was no mention al-Baghdadi.

Stopping short of reversal, President Donald Trump planned to announce a revised Cuba policy aimed at halting the flow of US cash to the country's military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations.

That is partly why the news was met with skepticism.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro were restoring diplomatic ties between their countries, arguing that the policy the US had pursued for decades had failed to bring about change and that it was time to try a new approach.

But in the absence of independent confirmation, some U.S. officials said USA agencies were sceptical of the report.

REUTERS/Reuters TVThe image shows ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Baghdadi - a nom de guerre rather than his real name - is believed to have been born in Samarra, north of Baghdad, in 1971.

The new moves are only a partial reversal of Obama's policies, however, but they will burden the US government with the complicated task of policing U.S.travel to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

Pence introduced Trump by saying that the president's action would "make it clear that the United States of America stands with the courageous men and women of Cuba who seek to reclaim their God-given rights to life and liberty".

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