US Navy Seals hunting Islamic State leader in Iraq

US Navy Seals hunting Islamic State leader in Iraq
The US team which killed Osama bin Laden is understood to be in Baghdad, on the trail of self-styled 'caliph' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
3 min read
07 November, 2014
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of IS [Anadolu]
Members of the US team that killed Osama bin Laden have arrived in Baghdad to track down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS), according to exclusive information received by Al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The special forces team contains 16 officers, seven of which are already in Baghdad, according to an official close to the Iraqi army chief of staff. The team has reportedly started gathering information, developing an extensive database, and recruiting local Iraqis and tribesmen in areas where IS is active. The official said that the US team was working separately from the US and Iraqi armies, and has made three visits to locations outside Baghdad since arriving in Iraq last week.

The Iraqi military has reported that IS has created special commando units, and is planning to carry out attacks against embassies and consulates of countries involved in the international coalition fighting the jihadi group.

The Iraqi official said members of the team, fluent Arabic speakers, are based in the offices formerly occupied by Paul Bremer, the former US civilian administrator in Iraq in the southern Green Zone, near the Tigris.

The US believes killing Baghdadi would seriously weaken IS, as there is no named "heir" or likely potential replacement if he dies. The Iraqi intelligence service has offered a $25 million reward for information leading to Baghdadi's capture or death, the official added.

The Islamic State group's special units are believed to be based in Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah. They reportedly each consist of 2,000 to 3,000 would-be suicide bombers. The group also intends to counter US attempts to train Iraqi soldiers in urban warfare, our source said, by also training fighters in cities.

"They are equipped with modern gear that IS has seized from the army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces," said the official, quoting an Iraqi intelligence report.

"IS abandoned plans to expand a week ago, and is focusing on consolidating power in cities already under its control. This is because attacks by coalition forces have cut off supply lines and transport routes between the major cities the group controls such as Fallujah, Mosul, Tal Afar, Tikrit."

Western embassies
     These countries do not trust the Iraqi government to protect them. 

Nine countries have dispatched teams of between 20 and 30 troops each to Baghdad to secure their embassies, a senior Iraqi military official told Al-Araby al-Jadeed. This comes a few weeks after Washington and London dispatched special forces - reinforced by helicopters - to protect the US and British embassies and diplomatic missions in Baghdad.

"Army forces are already providing protection for embassies inside and outside the Green Zone," said the official. "These countries do not trust the Iraqi government to protect them."

Arab countries, in contrast, appear to be satisfied with the security measures the Iraqi government has implemented, he explained. Roads leading to embassies have been closed, and concrete barriers have been placed to stop attackers getting near their buildings.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.