According to new Popular Mobilization Forces intelligence, Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may not have escaped Mosul prior to the American coalition siege as previously reported.
The new report is unverified but contradicts earlier statements by the PMU, also known by its Arabic name Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi. Ninawa province is the Iraqi governorate that includes the second largest city of Mosul.
In early November, the Iraqi National Army claimed that al-Baghdadi had not only escaped Mosul, but that he had also taken 150 families hostage with him to protect him from airstrikes. Rumor had it that he escaped to Tal Afar, Iraq, 40 miles west of Mosul.
In late November, the spokesman for the PMU stated that al-Baghdadi escaped Tal Afar.
His whereabouts have since been unknown. However, according to Reuters, al-Baghdadi had become increasingly paranoid about his survival and that the “caliph” rarely emerged from underground bunkers and slept in a suicide vest.
The latest news by the PMU comes after an early December report by an alleged Russian intelligence officer that al-Baghdadi had been killed and that ISIS “political leaders” had been called to the “capital” of Raqqa, Syria to choose his successor.
In October, the American coalition, consisting of the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia militias like the PMU, Christian militias, and the Turkish Nineveh Guard, descended upon Mosul to free it from the Islamic State. The official operation began on October 17 when it was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, reports the BBC.