A senior ISIS leader in Iraqi city of Hawija declared himself a new leader of the terror group, adding to the state of chaos within the group’s ranks that followed reports of the death of the group’s founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Abu Haitham al-Obaidi, deputy to the ISIL’s mayor of Hawija, dissented from the group and named himself a new Caliph after Baghdadi’s death reports were confirmed,” said Jabbar al-Maamouri, a leader at the Popular Mobilization Forces, Al Sumariya reported.
He explained that Obaidi is a senior military leader, and had withdrew with tens of his loyalists to the Western side of Hawija, where he entrenched preparing for a “decisive” confrontation with his opponents.
“Hawija is bracing for a bloody infighting among ISIL members, the most violent since the group took over Hawija in June 2014,” said Maamouri.
A local source told Alsumariya News earlier that ISIL’s broadcast service in Hawija mourned Baghdadi and declared plans to name a successor.
Alsumariya News quoted a local source in Tal Afar Tuesday saying that ISIL made a brief statement in which it confirmed Baghdadi’s death . It said that infighting among Baghdadi’s loyalists and opponents broke out, prompting the group to carry out wide-scale arrests and to impose a curfew at most of the town.
No official Iraqi authority confirmed the reported statement.
Since Iraqi government forces, backed by their allies, launched a major offensive in October to retake Mosul, ISIL’s largest bastion in Iraq, clashing speculations around Baghdadi’s survival were plentuous. Russia said it was 100% sure Baghdadi was killed in a strike in Syria last month, but its declaration was met with skepticism from the United States and other countries.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over ISIL members in Mosul, saying the recapture of the city was an end of the self-styled rule by the group declared by Baghdadi in 2014.