Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is believed to have been killed after a US operation in Syria.
The elusive militant, who had a $ (m) £ 19. 5m) bounty on his head, has been the subject of an international manhunt for years but there is no official confirmation as to whether the operation was successful.
Newsweek said it had been told by a US Army official that al Baghdadi was dead, as a result of the operation in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
An official told The Associated Press that confirmation of the IS boss’s death in an explosion is pending.
The Pentagon has not commented.
US President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday night: “Something very big has just happened!” But he gave no further explanation.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president would make a “major statement” at 1pm GMT on Sunday but he did not say what it would be about.
The strike came amid concerns that a recent US pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.
Al Baghdadi, who led IS for the past five years, was seen in the summer of 2014 in the pulpit of the Nouri mosque in Mosul.
He urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.
“It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you, “he said in the video.
” I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help if you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God. “
In 2015, he was reportedly severely injured in an airstrike in western Iraq, and he was possibly even killed a few years later according to Russian officials.
He has also been heard in a number of audio messages to followers, including an 18 – minute speech given earlier this year.
Al Baghdadi oversaw a shift away from large-scale attacks towards smaller-acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prevent.
They encouraged jihadists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill where they were, with whatever weapon they had at their disposal.
In the US, multiple extremists have pledged their allegiance to al-Baghdadi on social media, including a woman who along with her husband committed a 2015 massacre at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.
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