The latest clues related to the status of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi indicate that the most wanted man in the world is “at least alive”, Fox News reports.
The news outlet referred to copies of several December-dated letters from Daesh operatives to Baghdadi obtained by The Sunday Times earlier this month.
In one letter, Daesh commander Abu Taher al-Tajiki reportedly briefs Baghdadi on potential target sites for the terrorist group’s strikes in Europe.
“The letters underscore that not only is ISIS [Daesh] seemingly devoted to overseeing global attacks, but that its shadowy commander still pulls rank”, Fox News reports.
The Sunday Times, in turn, cited Mohammed Ali, one of the Daesh militants captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as saying that the jihadists believe Baghdadi is not present in the sliver of land still held by the terrorist group, but is hiding somewhere in the desert outside Syria.
According to the newspaper's source, the disappearance of the Daesh leader has spurred internal fighting within the terrorist organisation.
Sabah al Namaan, Baghdad’s spokesperson for its counter-terrorism agency, for his part, told Fox News in early April that Baghdadi is still in the Syrian desert, and that he “could not enter into the Iraqi side because of concerns about evading the security measures on the borders”.
Namaan added that killing him or arresting Baghdadi “will reveal many secrets about how they have recruited tens of thousands of young men, and it will create a gap in the organisation.”
“Hopefully we will reach him very soon, especially now that ISIS has been defeated in its final place in Baghouz, Syria and they have lost all their land in Iraq. Now, we have a real opportunity to catch or kill him”, he underscored.
He was echoed by Hamid al-Hayes, the head of the al-Anbar Salvation Council, who claimed that Baghdadi was still in Syria near the Iraqi border and that the Daesh leader “has shaved his beard and changed a large part of his features [so as] not to be identified and arrested”.
Hisham al-Hashimi, a member of Iraq’s National Reconciliation Commission, in turn suggested that all the clues pinpoint Baghdadi in “three possible locations”, including Syria’s Palmyra, the Homs desert or Iraq.
“All these locations are very wide and very large with around 200 square miles [500 square kilometres]. He is a specialist at knowing how to survive, using different disguises and only with two people – his brother and his driver – with him”, Hashimi was quoted by Fox News as saying.
In June 2017, Russia’s Defence Ministry said that Baghdadi could have been killed as a result of an airstrike by the Russian Aerospace Forces, but several months later an alleged audio recording of Baghdadi emerged, casting doubt on his assassination.
The US, meanwhile, reportedly continues to offer up to $25 million for information leading to Baghdadi’s capture or death.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State) is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and a number of other countries