Russia said it killed two Islamic State commanders

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday it had killed two Islamic State (IS) field commanders, named as Abu Omar al-Beljiki and Abu Yassin al-Masri, in air strikes near the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, Interfax news agency reported.

The statement came a day after Russia said it may have killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an air strike last month. Washington said it could not corroborate Baghdadi’s death and Western and Iraqi officials were sceptical.

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday it killed about 180 militants and the two commanders al-Beljiki and al-Masri in air strikes around Deir Ezzor on 6 June and 8 June.

Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based expert who advises several Middle East governments on IS affairs, said he was sceptical about Russia’s claim on Saturday.

He said Abu Yasin al-Masri is the same person as Abu al-Haj al-Masri, who the Russians on Friday said they killed near Raqqa in May.

Al-Hashimi said the other IS leader, al-Beljiki, was unlikely to have been in Syria at the time of the attack.