The hunt for Islamic State’s elusive evil leader is gathering momentum, and is believed to now involve US and British special forces and a prized female snitch.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was rumoured to be dead until a video of the wanted ISIS cleric suddenly emerged in April, the first footage of the death cult kingpin to emerge in five years.
According to The Guardian, the senior-most Islamic State female operative in captivity has been giving the CIA potentially vital information to track down Baghdadi, including locations of safehouses where the ISIS leader was known to hide.
Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, also known by her nom de guerre, Umm Sayyaf, was once married to one of Baghdadi’s closest advisors, his one-time oil minister in the now fallen self-declared caliphate, Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunis.
Umm Sayyaf, who was captured by US special forces, Delta Force, in 2014 has helped the CIA and Kurdish intelligence build a dossier of Baghdadi’s movements, hideouts and networks.
At the weekend, several UK newspapers reported the British SAS had joined US special forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq on a mission to “kill or capture” Baghdadi. The US government has a bounty of $35 million on the head of Baghdadi.
Umm Sayyaf, aged 29, is accused of enslaving captured US aid worker Kayla Mueller and several Yazidi women and girls, who were raped by senior ISIS leaders.
Baghdadi would sometimes visit the home of Umm Sayyaf and her husband, recording audio propaganda messages and sharing tea, according to The Guardian.
In 2016, information provided by Umm Sayyaf to intelligence officials pinpointed a home in Mosul where the US-led coalition believed Baghdadi could have been hiding. An airstrike was discussed but a variety of factors meant the mission was never given a green light.
“[Umm Sayyaf] gave us a really clear picture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s family structure and the people who mattered most to him,” a senior Kurdish intelligence official said.”We learned about the wives of the people around him in particular, and that has been very useful for us. She identified lots of people and their responsibilities. And she gave us a sense of the real feelings of the leadership wives.”
With a $35 million bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man. Despite numerous claims about his death in the past few years, al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain a mystery.Many of his top aides have been killed, mostly in US-led coalition airstrikes. He is among the few senior IS commanders still at large after two years of heavy battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria that saw the fall of the so-called caliphate.
Umm Sayyaf told The Guardian it was possible Baghdadi had returned to Iraq, a place she said the ISIS leader had always felt safer.Some reports have placed the “invisible sheikh” in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad.