ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiReuters

Iraqi security forces claimed Sunday to have struck the convoy of Islamic State (ISIS) terror group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an air raid near the country's border with Syria.

"The Iraqi air force carried out a heroic operation targeting the convoy of the criminal terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," Iraq's security forces said in a joint statement.

"His health status is unknown," it said, adding that the leader of the ISIS jihadist group was "transported in a vehicle" after the strike.

Citing hospital sources and residents, Reuters reported that the airstrike targeted a gathering of Islamic State members and killed several leaders but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was not among them.

Iraqi security sources have previously said Baghdadi had been injured or killed in past strikes, but such claims were either never verified or later denied.  

The statement was released by the "war media cell", a structure which provides updates on the war against ISIS on behalf of the interior and defense ministries as well as the paramilitary Popular Mobilization forces.

Iraqi aircraft struck Baghdadi's convoy as it was "moving towards Karabla to attend a meeting of the Daesh terrorist leaders", the statement said.

"The meeting place was also bombed and many of those leaders were killed and wounded," it said, adding that it would later release names.

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS, which last year proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.

Karbala is located on the Euphrates river barely five kilometers (three miles) from the border with Syria.

Saturday strike

Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told AFP that "the strike was yesterday (Saturday) at noon."

It said the operation was conducted in coordination with Iraq's interior ministry intelligence services and the joint operation command center that includes military advisers from the US-led coalition.

The health and whereabouts of Baghdadi, who has a $10 million US bounty on his head, are the subject of constant speculation.

He was reported wounded multiple times over the past year and his apparent survival has only added to mystery surrounding the ISIS chief.

According to an official Iraqi government document, Baghdadi was born in Samarra in 1971 and has four children with his first wife - two boys and two girls born between 2000 and 2008.

An Iraqi intelligence report indicates Baghdadi, who it says has a PhD in Islamic studies and was a professor at Tikrit University, also married a second woman, with whom he had another son.

Baghdadi apparently joined the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, at one point spending time in an American military prison in the country's south.

There were reports in May that al-Baghdadi had been seriously wounded in a strike by the coalition bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and that he remained incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage sustained in that airstrike. However, a few days later he released an audio recording in which he urged Muslims to emigrate to his self-proclaimed "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.

The voice reading the half-hour speech appeared to match previous audio recordings of Baghdadi, the latest of which was released in mid-November 2014.