ISIL leader is alive and hid­ing in Syria: in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials

Ottawa Citizen - - CLASSIFIED - Josie en­sor

BEIRUT • Abu Bakr AlBagh­dadi — the leader of ISIL — is still alive, but in­jury and poor health have forced him to re­lin­quish con­trol of the ter­ror group, ac­cord­ing to an Iraqi -in­tel­li­gence chief and U.S. of­fi­cials.

Bagh­dadi is hid­ing out in the desert on the Syr­ian side of the Syr­i­aIraq bor­der, north­east of Deir Ez­zor prov­ince, said Abu Ali al-Basri, di­rec­tor gen­eral of Iraq’s in­tel­li­gence and counter-ter­ror­ism of­fice at the in­te­rior min­istry.

“We have ir­refutable in­for­ma­tion and doc­u­ments from sources within the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion that alBagh­dadi is still alive and hid­ing,” Basri told gov­ern­ment news­pa­per As-Sabah.

The of­fi­cial said the ISIL chief had suf­fered “frac­tures and se­ri­ous wounds” which were likely the re­sult of pre­vi­ous air strikes on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Bagh­dadi, who also suf­fers from di­a­betes, is thought to have been left un­able to walk unas­sisted from in­juries in­curred from a raid in 2015, which were ex­ac­er­bated by an­other last May.

Basri de­scribed his con­di­tion as “se­vere”, say­ing he added that the ji­hadist had re­cently been ad­mit­ted to a hos­pi­tal in the Jazeera desert near the bor­der for his “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal state” and for frac­tures to his legs.

Rus­sia had claimed it killed the reclu­sive leader — who has not been seen in pub­lic since declar­ing ISIL’s caliphate from the Iraqi city of Mo­sul in July 2014 — in an air strike dur­ing a meet­ing of se­nior ISIL com­man­ders near Raqqa on May 28. How­ever it of­fered no ev­i­dence to back up the claim, which was ques­tioned by the U.S.-led coali­tion against ISIL at the time.

U.S. of­fi­cials confirmed to CNN Mon­day that while Bagh­dadi’s in­juries were not con­sid­ered life-threat­en­ing, they did mean he has not been able to com­mand the daily op­er­a­tions of the group. Bagh­dadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri, is thought to be com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the group’s fol­low­ers via voice mes­sages sent over en­crypted app ser­vices. His last pub­lic mes­sage was in Septem­ber last year.

In the 46-minute au­dio, he called on sup­port­ers to carry out at­tacks on the West.

Bagh­dadi’s where­abouts have been the sub­ject of much spec­u­la­tion since the group’s de­feat in all of its for­mer ma­jor strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

The 46-year-old was be­lieved to be liv­ing near Baaj, west of Mo­sul, un­til the U.S.-backed Iraqi army of­fen­sive on the area last Spring. Since then he is thought to have been mov­ing around vil­lages along the Syria-Iraq bor­der still un­der ISIL’s con­trol.


Abu Bakr Al-Bagh­dadi has not been seen in pub­lic since declar­ing ISIL’s caliphate from Mo­sul, Iraq, in July 2014.

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