This is how Baghdadi moves between Syria and Iraq
Iraqi security forces have recorded three occasions on which the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), the self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has entered Iraq since the start of the year.
According to Iraqi security reports, on his first entry, Baghdadi travelled to the city of Mosul in the governorate of Nineveh, where he gave a speech; his second entry was a night visit to check on his troops on the outskirts of Mosul; his third visit was to the city of al-Qaem to meet with his military commanders hours before the IS attacked and occupied the city of Khan Baghdadi, in Anbar province in the west of Iraq.
According to a military official who spoke to al-Araby al-Jadeed "the [Iraqi] report, which is consistent with US intelligence assessments, indicates that Baghdadi entered Iraq from Syria only three times since the beginning of last month [January]."
He visited the governorates of Nineveh and Anbar and met with his military commanders in those places and conducted a surprise night time inspection of his troops, as regular army leaders do."
Moving under cover of sandstorms and fog
The military official, a high ranking officer in the Iraqi army's Office of Chief of Staff, added that Baghdadi moved between areas with extreme caution, surrounded by a large number of fighters, mostly non-Arabs, who are ready to blow themselves up to protect him. They all wear suicide belts.
|Different countries have offered rewards for the killing or capture of Baghdadi ranging from 20 to 100 million dollars.|
Further, the official added, his armoured convoy is accompanied by American-made Humvees equipped with rocket launchers and Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, which were seized from the Iraqi army when the group took control of Mosul and Anbar.
According to the official, Baghdadi moves around during sandstorms and at dawn when there is thick fog, which can reduce visibility to less than 20 metres at times.
A number of countries such as the US, France, Britain and Iraq have offered a reward for the killing or capture of Baghdadi, ranging from 20 to 100 million dollars, making it the highest reward assigned for any fugitive since the creation of the United Nations Security Council.
US, Iraqi and international coalition forces have all been attempting to track Baghdadi. However, US reports indicate that Baghdadi changes his location several times a day in accordance with plans set out by his security advisors.
These difficulties, the reports indicate, are compounded by the difficulty of identifying him from among other fighters, as he shares everything with them, just like any other fighter in the group.
According to reports, "Baghdadi conducted a surprise inspection of his forces on the outskirts of Mosul and spoke to them for several hours, after having entered Mosul early last month [January] and addressed his fighters in a building controlled by the group. Baghdadi also entered the city of al-Qaem and met with IS commanders hours before they occupied the city of al-Baghdadi, 120 kilometres west of Baghdad."
But the information came late for Iraqi forces and intelligence services to act on, according to the official.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.