Infamous Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be trapped in Iraq, according to intelligence gathered by an Iraqi militia group.
Iraq’s Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units, or PMUs, reported Saturday that Baghdadi was stuck in Nineveh province, not far from the city of Mosul. The militia group cited unconfirmed intelligence reports gathered by a joint intelligence task force comprised of the PMUs and Iraq’s Joint Operations Command.
“Initial information with the intelligence bodies tell that … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains in Nineveh … as security forces impose control over the eastern side of Mosul, while the western side is totally isolated from Syrian territories,” said Jawad al-Tleibawi, the military spokesman for Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the PMU militias.
The report is the latest of many theories on the fate and possible whereabouts the terrorist leader, none of which have backing of strong evidence. The most commonly accepted theory states that Baghdadi escaped Mosul sometime in November after the start of a U.S.-backed assault on the city. Some reports claim he is hiding somewhere near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
While Baghdadi’s exact location remains unclear, the elusive leader is believed to be growing increasingly paranoid. A Reuters report in November claimed the ISIS leader “has become intemperate” and has even resorted to extreme tactics to avoid being captured.
“He has cut down on his movements and neglects his appearance,” an informant inside Mosul told the Iraqi military, as reported by Reuters. “He lives underground and has tunnels that stretch to different areas. He doesn’t sleep without his suicide bomber vest so he can set it off if he’s captured.”
Contrary to ISIS’s typical public image, Baghdadi is rarely seen in public or in the group’s massive amount of propaganda. He was last heard from in November, after releasing his first audio statement in more than ten months.
Baghdadi is quickly running out of places to hide, as both Mosul, ISIS’s capital in Iraq, and Raqqa, it’s capital in Syria, remain under siege. Much of the terrorist group’s territory has been retaken, meaning it is only a matter of time before Baghdadi is killed or captured.
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