Lebanon’s protesters maintain a united front
Roadblocks set up by protesters near the centre of Beirut were lifted yesterday morning.
The move, however, was not a victory for the security forces, who made several unsuccessful attempts on Saturday to open the main ring road. It was instead a move by those on the streets to allow more to join their ranks for what activists said was going to be a major rally on the 11th day of nationwide protests.
At the main protest sites around Martyrs and Riad Al Solh squares, community spaces sprang up, running arts and crafts workshops for children. People gathered there to discuss the future of the anti-government movement and the country as traders did brisk business selling water and snacks.
On Saturday, police and the army tried to clear protesters from a stretch of the ring road that connects east and west Beirut, before another group blocked the road farther along. After several hours going back and forth, the police appeared to give up about nightfall and cede
from northern Syria, which led to a Turkish offensive against allied Kurdish fighters in which dozens were killed.
At least seven other people were killed in the raid, which was named after murdered ISIS hostage and US citizen Kayla Mueller. They included Al Baghdadi’s two wives, his son, his bodyguard Gazwan Al Rawi, his personal assistant Abu Saaed Al Iraqi, Abu Al Yaman Al Shami, the figure in charge of ISIS’s security in Syria, and Abu Mohammed Al Halabi, a senior leader of a militant organisation in Idlib known as the Hurras Al Din, or Religious Guards, a security adviser to the Iraqi government told The National.
Al Baghdadi was living at Al Halabi’s house. The location was hundreds of kilometres from where he was believed to be hiding.
It had long been thought in intelligence circles that Al Baghdadi was in ISIS-controlled pockets along the Syrian-Iraqi border.
But ISIS lost their last sliver of territory in March when the hamlet of Baghouz was reclaimed by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab-Kurdish coalition of fighters leading the ground battles against the terrorist group in Syria.
Iraq confirmed yesterday that its National Intelligence Service found Al Baghdadi’s location and provided it to the United States.
“After constant monitoring and the formation of a special task force over an entire year, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, acting on accurate information, was able to locate the den in which … Al Baghdadi and those with him were hiding in the Syrian province of Idlib,” the Iraqi military said.
“The Iraqi intelligence services managed to recruit a member of that network in exchange for a large sum of money,” he said.
Another Iraqi official said that the country’s intelligence services provided the exact co-ordinates of Al Baghdadi’s location after arresting two members of his inner circle. The arrests led them to a safe house in western Iraq and more evidence about his plans in Syria, the official told Reuters.
Al Baghdadi has been in hiding for five years and the US had offered a reward of $25 million (Dh91.8m) in return for his capture or death.
He last appeared on September 16 in a 30-minute audio message.
Al Baghdadi had been erroneously reported dead on several occasions.