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Very much alive: ISIS leader Baghdadi hurt and out of action

Sheetal Sukhija - Tuesday 13th February, 2018

DAMASCUS, Syria - While several reports have previously confirmed and even some governments have officially said that the Islamic State (ISIS) leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead - now, an explosive report has stated that he is very much alive, but hurt.

While Syria and Iraq declared the end of the era of terror and violence, a Hezbollah-run media unit earlier stated that the ISIS leader Baghdadi was reported to have been in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal during the Syrian army and its allies’ operation to clear it. 

Several other unconfirmed reports have also confirmed spotting Baghdadi or have quoted sources as saying that the controversial ISIS leader was alive and had gone underground. 

According to several U.S. officials quoted in a CNN report, Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike in May last year and had to relinquish control of the terror group for up to five months because of his injuries.

U.S. intelligence agencies are also said to 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. t

The U.S. officials said that the assessment carried out by intelligence agencies is based on reports from ISIS detainees and refugees in Northern Syria that emerged months after the airstrike.

While the officials did not disclose details of Baghdadi's injuries, they pointed out that the injuries were not considered life-threatening. 

However, the officials clarified that they did mean he couldn't continue to command the daily operations of the group.

The report pointed out that at the time, ISIS was about to lose control of the Iraqi city of Mosul and Raqqa, which it had claimed as its capital, had been nearly encircled by U.S.-backed forces.

However, the report pointed out that it remains unclear whether Baghdadi was hit in a targeted attack or if he was "collateral damage." 

Incidentally, the officials said that it is also unclear who fired the missile. 

The U.S. officials however said that they do not know the exact date of the strike and therefore are unsure if a Coalition aircraft was involved, or whether Baghdadi's injury was the result of a Russian missile.

A U.S. official was quoted as saying in the report, "There have been isolated strikes by Russians in Raqqa, but as there's no timeline to it, we don't know if it's ours.”

In June last year, the Russian military said in a statement that they had carried out an airstrike which they had claimed had led to the death or injury of the ISIS leader.

U.S. officials now claim that this airstrike occurred close to the date of the supposed incident.

The Russian Defense Ministry had stated at the time that it was investigating reports that Baghdadi had been killed in an airstrike on May 28, on the outskirts of Raqqa.

However, analysts had warned at the time that reports of Baghdadi's death should be treated with skepticism given the high number of previous false reports.

The CNN report quoted one U.S. official as saying that the Russian claim was a case of Moscow "making stuff up."

Meanwhile, another U.S. official, commenting on if the injuries meant Baghdadi had been able to return to his leadership role, he said, "Yes. I do not know how much Baghdadi is day-to-day running the shop."

Since reports of Baghdadi’s death emerged, ISIS has released various audio messages that it claims to be of Baghdadi.

Most recently, such messages were released in September last year which appeared to contain reference to news events that showed it had been recorded since the Russian claims of his death.

Baghdadi, believed to have been born Ibrahim Awad al-Samarrai, in the Iraqi city of Samarra in 1971, was detained in the U.S. prison camp in Iraq, Camp Bucca for three years and was released in 2009.

In 2010, he emerged as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, which was then an offshoot that would eventually morph into ISIS.

Baghdadi transformed the militants into a well-oiled and organized fighting force.

The group changed its name in April 2013 - signaling the group's broader ambitions of establishing a caliphate straddling the border of Iraq and Syria which strictly enforces Shariah law.

In 2013, Baghdadi released an audio statement, claiming to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and vowed to erase the "Western imposed border with Syria.” 

He called on his followers to "tear apart" the governments in both countries and their regional backers.

In July 2014, al-Baghdadi, proclaimed a “caliphate” that covered territory in both Iraq and Syria and reports of his death have been circulated even since then.

In July 2014, Baghdadi became one of the most wanted men in the world after he delivered an address during the month, from the pulpit of the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 

It was in this speech that he declared the formation of the Islamic State, a self-proclaimed caliphate that would grow to become bigger than the size of Belgium.

Soon after, ISIS claimed Raqqa as a key city in its self-declared caliphate and made it a hub for the organization’s activities and attacks in Syria, Iraq and other regions.

The terror group took over all levels of civil administration, rewriting school curriculums, establishing Islamic courts and creating police units to implement Islamic law - masterminded by al-Baghdadi. 

Earlier in 2017, U.S. and Iraqi authorities believed al-Baghdadi had abandoned his fighters and gone into hiding as Iraqi forces continued to make inroads into Mosul.

A month later, in April, a documentary called him the world’s most wanted man with the U.S. State Department placing a bounty of $25 million for any information leading to his location, arrest, or conviction. 

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al Qaeda leader, is the only other person with a similar bounty.

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