A top Kurdish counter-terrorism official says he is 99 per cent sure Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive, despite reports he has been killed.
On Monday, Lahur Talabany told Reuters news agency that Baghdadi was most likely somewhere south of the Syrian city of Raqqa.
"Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 per cent he is alive," Talabany said.
"Don't forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing."
The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since climbing the pulpit of a mosque in Mosul in 2014 and declaring a caliphate with himself the leader of all Muslims.
After leading his fighters on a sweep through northern Iraq, Baghdadi attempted to create a self-sustaining modern-day caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
He is now a man on the run but still a cunning foe, said Talabany, who as part of the international coalition against Islamic State has been at the forefront of efforts to track Baghdadi down.
"He is not an easy figure. He has years of experience in hiding and getting away from the security services," Talabany said.
The numerous reports suggesting Baghdadi had been killed have raised questions about who might replace him as head of a diverse group comprised of Iraqis and other Arabs as well as hardcore foreign fighters.
Iraqi intelligence officers who served under Saddam Hussein have been described as the military strategists instrumental in creating an Islamic State reign of terror.
Talabany said it was hard to know which top Baghdadi aides were alive or dead but he believes most of the leadership is in Syria, south of Raqqa.
A younger generation of Saddam's former allies were expected to take key positions.
"These are the people in line," he said. "The younger generation is always more dangerous."