He's the most wanted man in Iraq, and the U.S. coalition that's been bombarding the region all weekend is keenly interested in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's whereabouts and state of health.
Since air strikes against Islamic State on Friday, contradictory reports have emerged about where the militant group's leader is. Some report he has been wounded.
WHO IS ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI?
- 43 years old
- Leader of Islamic State, a militant group that has violently seized a large swath of northern Iraq and Syria since June
- Took over the militant group in 2010 when it was still an al-Qaeda affiliate
- Broke the group away from al-Qaeda after a falling-out with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri
HOW THE RUMOURS ABOUT HIM STARTED
The Mosul attack: U.S.-led coalition air strikes destroyed an Islamic State convoy near Mosul on Friday. Colonel Patrick Ryder of U.S. Central Command said the military had reason to believe the convoy was carrying Islamic State leaders, but said the military could not confirm whether Mr. al-Baghdadi was among them.
The al-Qaim attack: Later Friday, coalition air strikes targeted Islamic State checkpoints near the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, Ryder confirmed. Al-Hadath TV channel reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi could have been among those targeted by the air strikes.
Officials in Iraq's Anbar province, where al-Qaim is located, gave unconfirmed reports over the weekend that al-Baghdadi had been wounded in one of the attacks, and had possibly moved to Syria. Reports on Twitter about Mr. al-Baghdadi's alleged injury were challenged over the weekend by other pro-Islamic State social-media accounts.
On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States wasn't specifically targeting Mr. al-Baghdadi anywhere in Iraq, and that he had not been a target in the Mosul convoy attack.
WHAT ABOUT HIS AIDES?
Abu Huthaifa al-Yamani: Iraqi state television reported Monday that an aide to Mr. al-Baghdadi, Abu Huthaifa al-Yamani, was killed in an air strike near Fallujah, an Islamic State stronghold west of Baghdad. Mr. al-Yamani's death and his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi could not be confirmed.
Abdur Rahman al-Athaee: On Sunday, citing an Iraqi official, the Guardian newspaper reported that aide Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Sajar, was among those killed in the Mosul convoy attack.
HOW IS THE WEST MONITORING ISLAMIC STATE?
The difficulty in tracking down Mr. al-Baghdadi and his associates illustrates how challenging it is for Western governments to monitor the group's activities. An investigative team, funded by Britain and Denmark (it cannot be named out of concern for its investigators' safety) has been probing the group's activities in Syria, trying to link top officials to specific atrocities against civilians in the conflict. The group has helped to brief officials in Canada, which is contributing to the U.S.-led coalition's air strikes in Iraq.
With reports from Associated Press, Reuters, Kim Mackrael and Omar El Akkad