Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bahgdadi was seriously injured in a recent airstrike, several Iraqi news outlets reported on Sunday.
The Iraqi television station al-Hura cited a security source saying Baghdadi and other senior members of the terror group were injured two days ago in an airstrike in Iraq. They were reportedly transferred to Syria for treatment.
The Iraqi air force reportedly carried out the airstrike that injured Baghdadi after receiving information from the Iraqi Falcon Intelligence Cell of his whereabouts.
The security source also said Baghdadi had been living in an underground bunker and was targeted while meeting with the jihadi group’s leadership.
Shortly after terrorist fighters swept across swathes of Iraq in June 2014, Baghdadi appeared at the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri to proclaim a “state” straddling Syria and Iraq in front of thousands of Muslim faithful.
The video of the appearance in Mosul — which showed a man with a black and grey beard wearing a black robe and matching turban — is the only one IS has released of Baghdadi to date.
“It is rather remarkable that the leader of the most image-conscious terrorist group is so low-key in terms of his own publicity,” said Patrick Skinner, an analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.
Baghdadi has been reported wounded in airstrikes multiple times, but the claims have never been verified, and his apparent survival has added to his mystique.
In mid-December, the United States more than doubled the bounty on the shadowy IS leader’s head to $25 million.
An Iraqi intelligence report indicates that Baghdadi has a PhD in Islamic studies and was a professor at Tikrit University.
Baghdadi apparently joined the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, at one point spending time in an American military prison in the country’s south.
AFP contributed to this report.