Badly injured, depressed and ill, the leader of the largely decimated Islamic State group, once the world’s most formidable terror organisation, is living his final days, US and Iraqi officials suggested on Monday.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was badly wounded in an airstrike in May last year, forcing him to give up control of the terror group because of his injuries, US officials told CNN.
“US intelligence agencies have assessed with a high degree of confidence that the world’s most wanted man was near Raqqa, Syria in May when the missile struck,” the report claimed, quoting US officials.
The assessment seems to have been based on reports from IS detainees and refugees in Syria, although it is not clear who carried out the airstrike in question.
In June, Russia claimed its jets may have taken out the leader of the world’s most notorious terror organisation in a May 28 airstrike.
Moscow said Su-34 and Su-35 warplanes had attacked an IS military council meeting south of the group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria on May 28 and that the US was informed in advance of the raid. At the time, analysts voices scepticism over Russia’s claims.
According to CNN, Baghdadi’s injuries were not considered life-threatening but they were serious enough to force him to relinquish command of “the daily operations of the group”, just as it was about to lose control of Mosul and Raqqa.
Anti-IS efforts are now focusing on the remaining pockets of territory controlled by IS in al-Jazeera region near the Syrian-Iraqi border, where both US and Iraqi intelligence believe Baghdadi is most likely to be.
On Monday, a senior official in the intelligence department of the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Baghdadi was still in the vast and sparsely populated desert area between Iraq and Syria, claiming he was living his final days as his health was deteriorating and suggested he was depressed.
The Iraqi official claimed the IS leader had suffered from “fractures and serious wounds” which might be the result of previous airstrikes on the organisation’s strongholds in Iraq.
He also said the self-styled “caliph” had recently been admitted to a hospital in the al-Jazeera desert for his “deteriorating psychological state” and for fractures and wounds in his legs that prevent him for walking unassisted. Basri described Baghdadi’s condition as “severe.”
Citing sources within the terrorist organisation, Basri told Iraqi news outlet Al-Sabah that Baghdadi is still alive and hiding in the Syrian region near Deir az-Zour with the help of his collaborators.
Iraqi authorities recently issued arrest warrants for Baghdadi and other senior extremists, as well as remnants of the former regime’s Baath Party, including Saddam Hussein’s daughter.