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His darkest hours: IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'injured, ill and depressed' Open in fullscreen

Karim Traboulsi

His darkest hours: IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'injured, ill and depressed'

Baghdadi is living his final hours, according to US and Iraqi officials [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2018

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Badly injured, depressed and ill, the leader of the largely decimated Islamic State group, once the world's most formidable terror organisation, is reportedly living his final days.
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.

In 2014, following his group's rapid capture of Mosul and vast swathes of western Iraq, he declared himself from the pulpit of al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City of Mosul the new caliph, leader of the entire Muslim nation

Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

Baghdadi has been rumoured dead many times. A character shrouded in mystery, making only one public appearance in 2014, Baghdadi's real name may be Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, and he may have been born in 1971 in Samarra, an ancient Iraqi city in the so-called Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad.

He may have been a cleric in a mosque in the city around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003. Reports suggest he was radicalised during the four years he was held at Camp Bucca, a US prison in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.

He emerged as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that later became Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in 2010 and then Islamic State (IS) in 2014, and rose to prominence during the failed merger with al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria (now Jabhet Fateh al-Sham).

He did not swear allegiance to the leader of the al-Qaeda franchise, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had urged IS to focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nusra.

Baghdadi and his fighters split with al-Qaeda and pursued an ultraviolent form of extremism that included bringing back slavery, engaging in genocide on non-Muslim minorities and Shia Muslims, and applying an extreme version of Islamic capital punishments, involving live immolation and mass beheading. 

The group and lone wolves inspired by it have claimed numerous terror attacks from the US to the Philippines, via Europe and the Middle East.

In 2014, following his group's rapid capture of Mosul and vast swathes of western Iraq, he declared himself from the pulpit of al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City of Mosul the new caliph, leader of the entire Muslim nation, a title abolished in 1924 with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

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