A top Iraqi official says the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group’s leader Ibrahim al-Samarrai, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is “alive” and is being treated in a field hospital in Syria, less than a year after sources announced the death of the notorious ringleader.
“We have irrefutable information and documents from sources within the terrorist organization that al-Baghdadi is still alive and hiding” in Jazira region, in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah, Iraqi government daily al-Sabah quoted Abu Ali al-Basri, the head of the Iraqi interior ministry’s intelligence and counter-terrorism operations service, as saying on Monday.
He further said that Baghdadi was suffering from “injuries, diabetes and fractures to the body and legs that prevent him from walking without assistance.” Basri added that the Daesh’s leader had sustained injuries in “air raids against” the group’s “strongholds in Iraq.”
Last week, Iraqi authorities published a list of “internationally wanted terrorist leaders” headed by the self-proclaimed Daesh “caliph”, born in 1971, under the name of Ibrahim al-Samarrai, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Back in June last year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said that it was “highly likely” that Baghdadi had been eliminated in an airstrike of the Russian Air Force on a militant command post in a southern suburb of the Syrian city of Raqqah in late May.
A month later, an unnamed local source in Iraq’s Nineveh province told Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumeria satellite television network that Daesh had announced the death of its leader in a brief statement released via the terrorist group’s media outlet in the center of Tal Afar city, situated 63 kilometers west of Mosul, without providing further details.
A few days after the al-Sumeria’s report, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that there was no evidence that Baghdadi was dead, despite the Takfiri group’s confirmation that its ringleader “has been killed.”
“If we knew, we would tell you — right now, I can’t confirm or deny it,” Mattis said at a press conference at the time, adding, “Our approach is we assume he’s alive until it’s proven otherwise, and right now I can’t prove it otherwise.”
On July 16 last year and just two days after Mattis’s remarks, al-Basri said that Baghdadi was alive and was hiding in Syria, Saudi Arabia’s state television Al Arabiya reported.
Daesh started a campaign of terror against Syria and Iraq in 2013 and 2014, respectively. It, however, lost all of its strongholds in both Arab countries last year thanks to the Syrian army’s counter-terrorism offensives, backed by Russian air cover, and Iraqi army troops, backed by pro-government paramilitary forces known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known in Arabic as Hashd al-Sha’abi.