So the Russians think they killed al-Baghdadi (maybe)

If you think you’ve heard this story before… you have. But this time it comes with a twist. There’s been another report that an airstrike in late May killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The twist is that this time it’s the Russians who got him… assuming he’s actually been “got.” (Associated Press)

Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group’s de facto capital in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

There had been previous reports of al-Baghdadi being killed but they did not turn out to be true. The IS leader last released an audio on Nov. 3, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the city against a major offensive that began weeks earlier.

Okay, so that announcement came from the Russian Defense Ministry. But before the virtual ink on the announcement even had a chance to dry, the Foreign Ministry came out and basically said, not so fast.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he can’t definitively confirm the death of the Islamic State group’s leader in a Russian airstrike.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed earlier Friday that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May, adding that the information about his death was still “being verified through various channels.”

Asked about the claim at a news conference in Moscow, Lavrov said: “I don’t have a 100-percent confirmation of the information.”

So he’s not reeling it in entirely, but still indicating that there’s a strong possibility. The Americans can’t confirm he’s dead either, but we’re also not denying it.

So, assuming it winds up being true this time, is it disappointing that the Russians got him instead of us? Hell no. Who really cares which team pulled the trigger? If the monster is dead then it’s a cause for celebration and he can go join the rest of his followers we’ve already dispatched to rot in a lake of fire. (Man… he’s going to be really disappointed that the whole 72 virgins thing didn’t work out. Or if it did, they’ve all got pitchforks.)

But while the death of al-Baghdadi would be welcome news indeed, we probably shouldn’t get too carried away with the champagne. If we’d managed to take this guy out in the first few months after the group’s formation and mobilization it might have disheartened his followers or led to the type of internal confusion and dissent where they wouldn’t have gained much ground for their caliphate. But by this point, as much as I regret saying it, the creature has accomplished his long term goals. Dead or alive he’s already passed into legendary status for his followers and the concept of ISIS (as opposed to the physical reality of their armies and infrastructure) has taken root across the internet and in secret meetings in mosques and other gathering places around the world.

It makes me sad to say it, but even a public display of the corpse of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi isn’t going to stop the proliferation of black ISIS flags or wannabe terrorists pledging their devotion to the group rather than the man himself. It’s much like taking back the cities ISIS has ruled for several years now. It’s great news for the residents and will likely rid us of many of their soldiers on the ground there, but you know that there’s a virtually endless supply of new recruits around the world waiting to join them or strike out on their own in the name of the cause.

This fight isn’t over and it may not be in our lifetimes. Remain vigilant.