WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that he believed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was still alive and that the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria was still trying to find and target him.
“I think Baghdadi is alive,” Mr. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “I’ll believe otherwise when we know we have killed him. We are going after him.”
The Russian military said last month that it had struck a meeting of Islamic State leaders on May 28 near Raqqa, Syria, and possibly killed Mr. Baghdadi.
The Russian claim was given credence this month by a British-based monitoring organization, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said it had obtained information from senior Islamic State commanders confirming that Mr. Baghdadi had been killed in Deir al-Zour Province. Raqqa Province neighbors Deir al-Zour in northeastern Syria.
The death of Mr. Baghdadi, who delivered a fiery sermon …