Baghdadi May Have Fled Mosul, U.S. And Iraqi Officials Say
U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources cited by Reuters say they believe Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has left Mosul, as Iraqi forces increasingly regain areas of the militant stronghold.
Officials believe Baghdadi has left Mosul and is in hiding in the desert but it is impossible to determine the militant leader’s location, according to Reuters in a report on Wednesday (March 8).
Intelligence sources cited by Reuters say a lack of official communication and the Iraqi forces regaining of territory in Mosul point to the probability Baghdadi has left the city.
Baghdadi and aids close to the militant leader have yet to comment on Iraqi forces’ recapture of eastern Mosul and intelligence sources say the decrease in social media postings suggest the militant group has become isolated.
Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai, has been reported wounded several times in the past.
Previously, Iraqi warplanes shelled a meeting of ISIS commanders in February near the Syrian border in Iraq where they believed Baghdadi was located.
It is believed the commanders were meeting to discuss “the collapse happening in Mosul and to choose a successor for him [Baghdadi],” the Iraqi Army Cell said in a statement released on February 13.
The Iraqi army said 13 commanders were killed in the strike.
The campaign to capture Mosul started on October 17, with air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition.
The offensive to take Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control in either Iraq or Syria, is turning into the biggest battle in Iraq's turbulent history since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.