Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Kurdish Official: ISIS Leader is in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi Federal Police celebrate in the Old City of Mosul. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Erbil– Weeks after reports about his death, mystery still surrounds the fate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi especially after the terrorist organization lost its stronghold in Iraq, Mosul.

A Kurdish official revealed that Baghdadi is indeed alive and still leading ISIS from inside Syria, adding that the organization is trying to take its leader into one of three countries in the region.

Spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Nineveh, Gayath al-Sourji revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that based on their resources, since ISIS took over Mosul and Anbar Baghdadi had been injured and treated twice. He added that currently, Baghdadi is inside Syria in the areas under ISIS control.

Sourji confirmed that Baghdadi is not in Raqqah but rather other areas because he doesn’t want to be uncovered by coalition air force circulating above the area.

He reiterated that the news about his death are not true and were only reported for diversion.

Since losing its control over Mosul, the city where Baghdadi announced the khalifa, the terrorist organization is planning for a new battle which will include its militants that escaped the cities after the liberation. Those militants became sleeper cells which Iraqi security sources admit being the hardest challenge to overcome and a hurdle to stability.

According to Sourji, ISIS will try to activate its sleeper cells in and outside Mosul especially after it lost all hope in being able to control large areas of the country. He also pointed out that rather than direct engagement the organization will most likely resort to guerrilla war such as attacks, assassinations, and targeting security forces as well as civilians.

Prior to the initiation of liberation operations of Mosul, a number of ISIS militants ranged between 10 and 12 thousand, according to Sourji.

He added that half of those escaped to Tal Afar and al-Hawijah while the others fled to Syria, and part hid among civilians. Only about 4000-5000 militants fought in Mosul.

Sourji warned against the threat ISIS militants posed on the Iraqi security.

Displaced citizens arriving at the camps on Mosul outskirts reported that the organization had divided its militants into three groups.

Citizen from Mosul who identified himself as Abu Ahmad told Asharq al-Awsat that prior to the liberation operation of Mosul, ISIS assigned a part of its militants for combat, some were instructed to hide among civilians while others were transferred outside of Iraq.

Abu Ahmad pointed out that civilians know the ISIS militants hiding among them but are too scared to report them to the security forces.