WASHINGTON, November 9, 2014 –Airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Anbar province may have wounded ISIS leader and self-declared Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to Iraqi officials.
President Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces in the area, where fighting with Islamic State militants has been fierce.
Social media postings suggest al-Baghdadi was wounded on Saturday. EIraq’s Defense and Interior Ministries issued statements saying al-Baghdadi had been wounded, without elaborating.
ISIS’s spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani reportedly confirmed Baghdadi’s injuries via twitter earlier today:
— Syrian Truth (@Syrian_Truth_en) November 9, 2014
The Islamic State gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq’s army and police divisions to fall into disarray. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq are part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and training necessary to fight the well trained and well-funded group.
Al-Baghdadi is seen not only as the psychological leader of ISIS, but also as the military leader. If he is seriously wounded, it would likely cause substantial disarray within ISIS. However, it is unclear whether second-level leaders would quickly fill the void.
Al-Baghdadi declared himself the leader of ISIS last June. At that time, he also announced he was head of the Islamic Caliphate. A rare video appearance showed al-Baghdadi and massive followers declaring allegiance to him and to the Islamic State.
It is law that should a caliph dies, adherents are “free to do as they like.” On the first day of Ramadan Baghdadi said “I have been appointed (caliph) over you, even though I am not the best and the most morally excellent among you.”
As Caliph, Ibrahim al-Baghdadi needs to be “whole” to lead. Should he suffer injuries in a strike that would cause him to lose a limb or become infirm his credibility would degrade; his death could create chaos as the Caliph Ibrahim is divine like making the succession of a “next Caliph Ibrahim” difficult as rules of succession are not clear..
The U.S.-led airstrikes on Friday were targeted toward Mosul and what was believed to be a gathering of ISIS leaders in Iraq according to a Defense Official reporting to Fox News. Tens of people were kille, with many injuries, including al-Baghdadi.
The news source says that the airstrikes at the Syrian border near the Iraqi town of Mosul did destroy a vehicle convoy of 10 armed trucks.
It was not immediately clear whether Friday’s U.S. strike was related to the Iraqi officials’ claims on Sunday that Al-Baghdadi was wounded. Some reports are that wounds are critical.
Al-Baghdadi, believed to be in his early 40s is the reclusive, yet pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community. The radical took over the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL, in 2010 creating a radical military force from what was once a branch of Al Qaeda. Today the al-Baghdadi has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.
Associated Press reports that an Interior Ministry official confirmed Baghdadi was in Qaim, in the western Anbar province, when he was hit. Citing informants within the militant group, officials say these strike wounded al-Baghdadi.
A senior Iraqi military official confirms reports saying that the operation was carried out not by U.S. forces but by Iraqi security forces and that the extent of al-Baghdadi injuries are not known at this time.