ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Despite reports last week suggesting Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had died, an Iraqi intelligence official claims he is still alive and hiding in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) last week said they had “unconfirmed information” Baghdadi had been killed in Syria, but Western and Iraqi officials could not confirm the claim.
Abu Ali Basri, the director general of the intelligence and counter-terrorism office in the Ministry of Interior, claimed Baghdadi was still “in hiding” in Syria outside of Raqqa, IS’ de facto capital and its largest remaining stronghold in the region.
In June, the Russian Defense Ministry suggested one of their airstrikes in Syria had targeted a meeting of IS leaders on the outskirts of Raqqa where Baghdadi was in attendance.
However, Basri refuted those claims according to Iraqi monitoring cells and information about Baghdadi’s movements.
“We have more of a vested interest than others, than international and Arab intelligence services, to pursue and hunt down, to monitor all the movements of the leader of [IS] and his followers,” Basri explained.
“The monitoring cells deny news of his death and other reports regarding his health recently published,” he added.
Basri also warned the militant group is targeting cities worldwide and their fall in Mosul did not mean their threat had disappeared.
“The group has sent sleeper cells from Syria to spread around the world to carry out attacks and spread chaos,” he said.
There have been many reports of Baghdadi’s death or serious injury over the last three years, especially since the launch of the offensive to retake Mosul from the militants.
The extremist group’s presence continues to shrink in both Syria’s Raqqa and Iraq’s Mosul.
Iraqi forces have recently declared victory in Mosul while the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the US have already liberated the eastern and western banks of Raqqa.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany