In final days, al-Baghdadi sought security in shrinking area – Occasions of India

In last days, al-Baghdadi sought safety in shrinking domain - Times of India

BEIRUT: In his final months on the run, Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was agitated, petrified of traitors, typically disguised as a shepherd, typically hiding underground, all the time depending on a shrinking circle of confidants. Associates paint an image of a person obsessed along with his safety and well-being and looking for security in cities and deserts in japanese Syria close to the Iraqi border because the extremists’ domains crumbled. In the long run, the brutal chief as soon as hailed as “caliph” left former IS areas fully, slipping into hostile territory in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province run by the unconventional group’s al-Qaida-linked rivals. There, he blew himself up throughout an October 26 raid by US particular forces on his closely fortified secure home. For months, he saved a Yazidi teen as a slave, and she or he instructed The Related Press how he introduced her alongside as he moved, touring with a core group of as much as seven shut associates. Months in the past, he delegated most of his powers to a senior deputy who is probably going the person introduced by the group as his successor. The Yazidi lady, who was freed in a US-led raid in Could, mentioned al-Baghdadi first tried to flee to Idlib in late 2017. She mentioned one night time she was loaded right into a three-vehicle convoy that included the IS chief, his spouse and his safety entourage, headed for the province. The convoy reached a most important highway however then circled, apparently fearing it could come below assault, mentioned the lady, who was 17 on the time. For a couple of week they stayed within the southeastern Syrian city of Hajin, close to the Iraqi border. Then they moved north to Dashisha, one other border city in Syria inside IS-held territory. There, the Yazidi teen stayed for 4 months on the residence of al-Baghdadi’s father-in-law, an in depth aide named Abu Abdullah al-Zubaie. Al-Baghdadi would go to her there steadily and rape her, the teenager mentioned. He would solely transfer at night time, sporting sneakers and masking his face, all the time with round 5 safety males, she mentioned. The AP doesn’t determine victims of sexual assault. Within the spring of 2018, she was given to a different man, who took her out of Dashisha. That was the final time she noticed al-Baghdadi, although he despatched her a bit of jewellery as a present, the teenager mentioned. It seems al-Baghdadi then moved from place to put in japanese Syria for the subsequent yr as one IS stronghold after one other fell to US-backed Kurdish-led forces, earlier than heading to Idlib someday within the spring. Throughout that point, al-Baghdadi was a “nervous wreck,” pacing up and down and complaining of treason and infiltrations amongst his “walis,” or governors of the group’s self-declared provinces, his brother-in-law, Mohamad Ali Sajit, mentioned in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV aired final week. “That is all treason,” Sajit recalled al-Baghdadi shouting. Sajit, an Iraqi who was married to a different of al-Zubaie’s daughters, was arrested by Iraqi authorities in June. He mentioned he noticed al-Baghdadi a number of occasions over 18 months, beginning in Hajin in late 2017. The final time was within the desert areas alongside the Syrian-Iraqi border not lengthy earlier than Sajit’s personal seize. He mentioned al-Baghdadi entrusted him with delivering messages on flash drives to lieutenants inside Iraq. Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish officers have mentioned they individually cultivated sources that led to the IS chief, and Sajit is believed to be considered one of them. A US official mentioned it appeared the Syrian Kurds managed to get a “visitor” inside al-Baghdadi’s inside circle whose info was key within the hunt. Sajit mentioned al-Baghdadi’s actions have been closely restricted, extra in order higher IS territory was misplaced. He walked round with a suicide belt, even slept with one close to him, and made his aides additionally carry belts. He by no means used a cellphone; solely his aide Abu Hassan al-Muhajer did, utilizing a Galaxy 7, Sajit mentioned. The stress worsened the IS chief’s diabetes, and he needed to continually monitor his blood sugar and take insulin. He did not quick throughout the holy month of Ramadan and compelled his aides to not quick as nicely, Sajit mentioned. At occasions, al-Baghdadi was disguised as a shepherd, he mentioned. When al-Baghdadi’s safety chief, Abu Sabah, received wind of a attainable raid on the desert Syrian-Iraqi border space the place they have been hiding they took down their tents and hid al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajer inside a pit coated with dust, Sajit mentioned. They let sheep roam round on high of the pit to additional disguise it. As soon as the specter of the raid was over, they returned and put the tents again up, he mentioned. Al-Baghdadi moved with a circle of 5 to seven individuals, together with al-Muhajer, al-Zubaie and Abu Sabah; and the group’s former governor for Iraq, often known as Tayseer or Abu al-Hakim. Al-Muhajer was killed on the identical day as al-Baghdadi, in a separate US-led army operation, following a Syrian Kurdish tip, in Jarablus, additionally in northwestern Syria; al-Zubaie was killed in a raid in March. On Monday, Turkish officers mentioned they arrested al-Baghdadi’s older sister in northwestern Syria’s Azaz area. All are areas exterior of presidency management. The IS chief was additionally in touch along with his high deputy, Hajji Abdullah, Sajit mentioned. Iraqi officers say al-Baghdadi put him accountable for a lot of the group’s administrative and monetary affairs. Sajit mentioned he believes Hajji Abdullah is definitely the person that IS named as al-Baghdadi’s successor earlier than his killing, recognized by the nom de guerre Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi Al-Qurayshi. US officers mentioned they didn’t know when al-Baghdadi arrived in Idlib however mentioned he selected the placement as a result of it was the final territory exterior of Syrian authorities management. US-allied Syrian Kurdish officers mentioned they pinned down his actions in Could however suspected he left to there after the autumn of the final IS territory in late March. There, he hid in a compound within the village of Barisha, about 5 kilometers (three miles) from the border with Turkey. Like a lot of Idlib’s border cities, it’s full of individuals displaced from throughout Syria and is run by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group affiliated with al-Qaida and a rival to IS. The compound belonged to a person named Abu Mohammed al-Halabi, who was a sheep dealer however had little contact along with his neighbors, a number of residents instructed the AP. They spoke on situation of anonymity fearing they might be endangered by speaking in regards to the website. Iraqi officers mentioned al-Baghdadi’s “technician”- a person who took care of logistics – was killed with him within the raid. One resident mentioned that almost a dozen helicopters hovered over their village earlier than 11pm the night time of the October 26 US-led raid. “We went out within the balcony to see and so they began capturing, with automated rifles. So we went inside and hid,” the resident mentioned. Then there was an airborne operation west of the village, within the route of al-Halabi’s home. Later, the People warned residents to maneuver away from the home as a result of they have been going to blow it up. “Nobody actually anticipated al-Baghdadi to be right here,” one other resident mentioned.

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