ISIL leader is alive and hiding in Syria: intelligence officials
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.