Islamic State supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been seen near Nineveh’s borders with Syria, apparently in a poor health condition, sources told Alsumaria News.
A local source in Nineveh told the network Saturday that Baghdadi, who the source said appeared near the borders with Syria’s Boukamal, looked skinny and unable to speak clearly due to past traumas. He was moving unguarded so as not to draw suspicions.
Alsumaria News, quoting the source, said Baghdadi rallied a number of his tribal supporters and voiced criticism of Iraqi members of his group for failing to exhibit enough backing for Arab and foreign members who, he said, were leading the battle against security forces.
Since Islamic State took over several areas of Iraq to proclaim an “Islamic Caliphate”, Baghdadi’s exact whereabouts have remained a mystery and subject to clashing speculations. The ambiguity increased as the Iraqi government launched an offensive in October 2016 to retake Mosul, Islamic State’s previously-proclaimed capital.
A U.S. official was recently quoted saying Baghdadi had fled Mosul before Iraqi forces surrounded the city. Other reports claimed he had admitted defeat and urged his fighters to withdraw. Some security observers said he remained in the group’s Syrian stronghold city of Raqqa.
Iraqi government forces took over eastern Mosul in January and are currently struggling to clear the western region from IS militants. They have become closer to the central Mosul Nuri Mosque where Baghdadi first appeared in a sermon that saw the declaration of the Islamic State’s rule.