Beirut- Moscow revived on Friday the controversy over the fate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by announcing that its army might have killed him during an airstrike that targeted Syria's Raqqa last month. The IS leader last released an audio recording on November 3, urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the Iraqi city against a major offensive.
Washington said it could not corroborate al-Baghdadi's death, which remains unconfirmed by the Islamists.
United States officials and Syrian activists claim that many ISIS commanders have fled Mosul and Raqqa in recent months for Mayadeen, a remote town in the heart of Syrias IS-controlled Euphrates River valley near the Iraqi border. The relocation could extend the group's ability to wreak havoc in the region and beyond for months to come.
The strike is believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group, as well as around 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards, the Russian defense ministry statement said.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which is a nom de guerre, was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al Samarrai.
Mr Lavrov said that if al-Baghdadi's death is confirmed, its importance must not be overestimated.
This is not the first time that Baghdadi has been reported dead, however.
Russian Federation sent an air force contingent to Syria in September 2015 to shore up President Bashar al-Assad, bombing both IS and other rebel groups opposed to the government.
"According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike", the ministry said.
Russian Su-34 aircraft and an Su-35 multirole fighter launched the airstrikes following drone footage confirmation of the council's meeting location, the statement said.
Based on disclosures by their unmanned aerial vehicles, the Russian troops in Syria carried out strikes on IS militants and thwarted the terrorist group's planned sortie against the defence lines of the Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zor, Xinhua cited a statement of the ministry on Saturday.
If true, Baghdadis death will push the accelerator on ISIS's demise which has been retreating on all fronts.
Information for this article was contributed by Bassem Mroue, Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns of The Associated Press.