Bagh­dadi ‘likely’ alive, say Kurds

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

SULAIMANIA, Iraq, July 17, (Agen­cies): A top Kur­dish coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial said on Mon­day he was 99 per­cent sure that Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi was alive and lo­cated south of the Syr­ian city of Raqa, de­spite re­ports that he had been killed.

“Bagh­dadi is def­i­nitely alive. He is not dead. We have in­for­ma­tion that he is alive. We be­lieve 99 per­cent he is alive,” Lahur Tal­a­bany told Reuters in an in­ter­view.

“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 he climbed up to the pul­pit of a mosque in Mosul in 2014 and de­clared 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.

ter­ri­tory they con­trol right now, still to this day, is very tough ter­ri­tory. It is still not the end of the game for ISIL. Even though they have lost al­most all of Mosul and they are get­ting ready to lose Raqa as well.”

Iraqi se­cu­rity forces have ended three years of Is­lamic State rule in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and the group is un­der grow­ing pres­sure in Raqa — for­mer strongholds in the mil­i­tants’ crum­bling caliphate.

Tal­a­bany said Is­lamic State was now shift­ing tac­tics de­spite low morale and it would take three or four years to elim­i­nate the group as it takes to the moun­tains and deserts to stage hit and run at­tacks and un­leash sui­cide bombers.

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