Senior Iraqi intelligence official rejects Russian claims that ISIS leader is dead

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiA senior Iraqi intelligence official has rejected assurances given by Russia that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State, is dead, insisting instead that the Iraqi-born cleric is alive in Syria. In mid- June, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that, according to its sources, al-Baghdadi had been killed. Subsequently, many Russian officials and political figures appeared to confirm Moscow’s report. On January 23, Russian media quoted Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Committee of National Defense of the Federation Council (the Russian Duma’s upper house) as saying that the likelihood that al-Baghdadi was dead was “close to 100 percent”. Last week, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it too was in a position to confirm that al-Baghdad had been killed, adding that the Islamic State had admitted as much in a statement issued to its senior commanders.

But Western governments, including the United States, have been reluctant to accept the Russian reports as accurate, saying that they prefer to wait for concrete proof of the Islamic State leader’s demise. On Sunday, the Iraqi government appeared to side with the skeptics. In an interview with the Baghdad-based daily Al-Sabah, senior Iraqi intelligence official Abu Ali al-Basri claimed al-Baghdadi was very much alive. Al-Basri, who supervises the Falcon Intelligence Cell, a US-trained counterterrorist unit operating under the Ministry of the Interior, said that the reports recently circulated about the rumored death of al-Baghdadi were “simply untrue”. He added that the founder of the Islamic State was “still living in Syria”, possibly at an Islamic State military facility on the outskirts of the organization’s de facto capital city of Raqqa.

Born in Iraq in 1971, al-Baghdadi has never been seen in public after his historic speech in June 2014, in which he proclaimed the creation of a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Speaking from the Grand Mosque in the old city of the Iraqi city of Mosul, which his forces had just conquered, al-Baghdadi issued a public call for supporters of the Islamic State around the world to join its ranks. But he never reappeared in public in the ensuing years, giving rise to occasional speculation that he may have been seriously wounded or even killed.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 July 2017 | Permalink

Advertisements

Iraq Interior Ministry ‘coup plotters’ ordered released

On December 18, The New York Times reported that dozens of pro-Ba’ath officials in Iraq’s Interior Ministry had been arrested while “in the early stages of planning a coup”. The arrestees, four of whom have the rank of General, had been detained by “an elite counterterrorism force” controlled directly by the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. A day later, however, Iraq’s Minister of the Interior, Jawad al-Bolani, told the Associated Press that a judge had ordered the arrestees to be released, reportedly “after determining there was no evidence that they conspired to bring back Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party”. Read more of this post

Reports of arrests of purported ‘coup plotters’ in Iraq

The New York Times is reporting that dozens of officials in Iraq’s Interior Ministry have been arrested while “in the early stages of planning a coup”. The arrestees, four of whom have the rank of General, have been detained during the past three days by “an elite counterterrorism force” controlled directly by the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The paper cites “senior security officials in Baghdad” in claiming that many of those arrested were affiliated with Al Awda (The Return) an underground secular paramilitary group composed mostly of former Ba’ath members. This might explain why the arrested officials were “a mix of Sunnis and Shiites”, according to several sources, who also claimed that “huge amounts of money” had been confiscated during the raids. [IA]