‘ISIS chief Baghdadi escapes Iraqi army’s final assault’
Islamic State (IS) group’s reclusive chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has escaped from Mosul as the Iraqi army advanced for a final assault, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday. He said western intelligence sources believe Baghdadi was no longer in Mosul, The Guardian reported.
Baghdadi had on Thursday broke his year-long silence and issued an audio recording, urging jihadists to continue their fight till the end in Mosul, where he was believed to be hiding.
Johnson, in an unusual reference to intelligence, said Baghdadi’s audio recording was “cruelly ironic since some of the intelligence we have suggests he had himself vacated the scene and is yet using internet media to encourage others to take part in violence.”
The battle for Mosul was expected to end in a decisive defeat for the terrorist group, but Baghdadi’s escape is likely to complicate matters for Iraqi and coalition forces. Johnson said the recapture of Mosul, in the face of IS’ “scorched earth campaign”, would take time and represented “the coalition’s greatest challenge”, according to the report.
If Baghdadi, who surprised the world by establishing the caliphate after capturing Mosul in June 2014, were to be killed, IS would have to choose a new caliph, but no successor would have the authority and prestige of the reclusive leader.
There is widespread concern that, despite a year of planning, there is little agreement among the many ethnic groups in the region on the future political structure of Mosul or the surrounding Nineveh province.