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Iraqi Officials Say the Islamic State's Leader Was Wounded in an Airstrike

Undated file picture released on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claiming to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The black-and-white picture shows a bearded man wearing a suit and tie. The group is behind most of the attacks that have been taking place in Iraq. It is also playing a more active military role alongside other predominantly Sunni rebels in the fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its members have carried out attacks against Syrians near the porous border inside Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry) AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials said Sunday that an airstrike wounded the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such a strike or al-Baghdadi being wounded.

FILE - This undated photo posted by the U.S. State Department in their Rewards for Justice website on June 18, 2014 shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The leader of the extremist group that has swept over much of northern Syria and Iraq called on Muslims Tuesday, July 1, 2014 to immigrate to the territory his group has seized to help build an Islamic state. The 19-minute audiotape from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi comes two days after his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.(AP Photo/U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice, File) AP Photo/U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice, File This undated photo posted by the U.S. State Department in their Rewards for Justice website on June 18, 2014 shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Iraqi officials claimed Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been wounded in an airstrike. (AP Photo/U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice, File)

Iraq's Defense and Interior Ministries issued statements saying al-Baghdadi had been wounded, without elaborating.

An Interior Ministry intelligence official told The Associated Press that al-Baghdadi was hit during a meeting Saturday with militants in the town of Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province. The official, citing informants within the militant group, said the strikes wounded al-Baghdadi. A senior Iraqi military official also said he learned in operational meetings that al-Baghdadi had been wounded.

Neither knew the extent of al-Baghdadi's apparent injuries. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential material. State television later also reported that al-Baghdadi had been wounded.

Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. Since taking the reins of the group in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaida into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.

A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The Islamic State had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq's army and police divisions to fall into disarray.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with Islamic State militants has been fierce. The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.

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