Some intelligence indicates Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi remains alive, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Thursday. "We are looking for him every day", he declared. If they find him, they probably will kill him rather than capture him, he said.
Townsend earlier indicated that the belief Baghdadi was not dead was based on a dearth of evidence and added that claims to the contrary amounted to "rumor or otherwise".
The Russian army announced on June 22 that it was very likely to have killed Baghdad, but failed to confirm this claim.
The terror nut - whose has reportedly been "killed" several times over the past two years - went on the run after his militants were slowly driven out of their strongholds in Mosul, Raqqa and Tal Afar.
"I think part of the rise of ISIS was disenfranchised peoples, majority Sunnis, who looked at Baghdad and they didn't see their government representing them or their interests or their future", he said.
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But added he could be hiding in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, stretching from the city of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria to the town of Rawa in western Iraq.
His announcement comes as the Iraqi prime minister declared victory over IS in the city of Tal Afar on Thursday. "I don't think it's worth going to the trouble of trying to capture him".
Despite a $25m bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has avoided all efforts to hunt him down for more than six years.
He has not been seen in public since his appearance at the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in 2014, when he proclaimed himself the leader of the "IS caliphate".
However, the militants still control areas on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border. Townsend said USA -backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces have recaptured about half of Raqqa in ongoing fighting.