Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL’s secretive leader, fended off internal coup attempt
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL’s secretive leader, survived a recent coup attempt by his own men.
That’s according to a Sunday report by Martin Chulov in the Guardian, which says the secretive leader known as “Caliph Ibrahim” had to fend off a two-day internal assault in September, by foreign fighters within his group who were eager to overthrow him.
After the attack on al-Baghdadi and his bodyguards, the Guardian reports, al-Baghdadi had the plotters gathered and killed. The coup leader is reported to have been a foreigner named Abu Muath al-Jazairi.
Fierce fighting continues to rid Syria of the country’s final ISIL stronghold in the country’s east, but as of yet al-Baghdadi has eluded capture.
he has made only one public appearance — at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, in July 2014, when he stood in front of a congregation and declared ISIL’s cross-border “caliphate.” With ISIL on the run and the caliphate crushed, his precise whereabouts remain a mystery.
He has been known to wear a mask when addressing his followers, remaining in contact with his men mostly by encrypted messaging apps.
“I saw him with my own eyes,” Jumah Hamdi Hamdan, 53, told the U.K. outlet of al-Baghdadi. “He was in Keshma and in September the Khawarij (infidels) tried to capture him.
“The fighting was very intense, they had tunnels between houses. They were mainly Tunisians and there were many people killed.”
The witness had given his report after escaping from ISIL’s final eastern Syrian hideout, Baghouz. He said the coup attempt went down in neighbouring al-Keshma.
The witness said that since January, the ISIL leader has been gone from the area, running into the desert as U.S.-backed Syrian forces advance.
“He tried to keep a low profile and didn’t travel through town with them but we all knew where they were. He used an old red Opal car,” the witness said, outlining how the leader had lived in the area for a total of some six months.
The Guardian’s reporting was backed up by senior regional officials, including those from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“It was a really tough clash and they excommunicated the losers. It started in mid-September and it was a very serious attempt to kill or capture him. We don’t think he is in the town now,” said an SDF commander who goes by the alias Adnan Afrini.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting remained underway Monday between the SDF and ISIL around the extremists’ last foothold in Baghouz, with the besieged militants fighting back using suicide car bombs, snipers and booby traps, a Syrian war monitor and a Kurdish news agency said.
The SDF on Saturday launched a final push to clear the area from ISIL under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-backed coalition.
The capture of the ISIL-held village and nearby areas would mark the end of a four-year global war to end ISIL’s territorial hold over large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the push has been slow due to land mines and sniper fire, as well as the extremists’ use of tunnels and suicide car bombs. ISIL is also using civilians as human shields, the Observatory said.
On Monday, the Observatory said 13 ISIL militants, including five suicide attackers, were killed as well as six SDF fighters. The Kurdish Hawar news agency also reported heavy fighting Monday in Baghouz.
More than 20,000 civilians have left the ISIL-held area in recent weeks.