The Iranian news site Alalam and other Iranian media reported today that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has escaped from Raqqa in Syria to Sirte in Libya.
On January 20th Western Journalism was the first media outlet in the West to report that al-Baghdadi might have moved to Libya at the end of 2015.
Western Journalism based its report on the translation of a statement by a Libyan ISIS fighter who in an official ISIS video “offered a long monologue in which he predicted a battle between ISIS and non-Muslim armies in the vicinity of Rome after the conquest of Libya. The masked man also called upon Muslims to join Islamic State and said ‘the Caliph was already here.’”
This was the first indication coming from a source inside Islamic State that Abu Bakr Baghdadi had indeed relocated to Libya.
In December 2015 British media and Fars News in Iran were the first to publish about Baghdadi’s new residence in Libya but these reports were based on unidentified sources.
But today several Arab outlets, including the Hezbollah mouthpiece Al-Manar reported that a former Egyptian intelligence officer had confirmed that al-Baghdadi is in Libya.
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was injured in Syria was sent to Turkey for treatment and from there he was sent to Libya,” former Egyptian intelligence officer Hesam Kheirullah was quoted as saying by Alalam.
The self proclaimed caliph of Islamic State was reportedly severely wounded when the Iraqi air force bombed his convoy in October 2015. Twenty-five ISIS members were killed during the air raid. The ISIS boss was first taken to Raqqa where local doctors saved his life and was then transferred to Turkey for further treatment.
The Iranian news site suggested that the CIA and the Turkish secret service MIT had been involved in the attempt to save al-Baghdadi’s life but based its conclusions on an unspecified source in Hezbollah’s TV station al-Manar that is known for its propaganda against the U.S. and Israel.
Baghdadi’s full recovery took months the Lebanese source told al-Manar and his decision to relocate in Sirte in Libya was based on the assessment that Sirte would be the last place on earth where his life would be endangered.
But at the end of January a mysterious sniper started to kill Islamic State leaders in Libya.
The shooter, known as the Daesh Hunter, took out three notorious ISIS leaders within days. The first leader that was killed by the sniper was a Sudanese national called Hamad Abdel Hady, nicknamed Abu Anas Al-Muhajer. He was a high ranking official in ISIS’ local sharia court.
The shooter’s next target was Abu Mohammed Dernawi who was shot down and killed near his home in Sirte on January 19th. Then on January 23 Abdullah Hamad al Ansari, a local ISIS commander from southern Libya, was gunned down the moment he came out of a mosque.
Sirte, that was the hometown of Libya’s late dictator Colonel Gadaffi was seized by ISIS in the summer of 2015 and has functioned as the capital of Islamic State in Libya ever since. There are more than 2,000 ISIS fighters in Sirte who have led the conquest of the coastal plain in the oil-rich country.
ISIS has been vastly expanding the territories under its control in Libya over the last few months and is now threatening Tunisia.
Today Islamic State launched a cross border attack on Tunisia from Libya. The London-based Arabic paper Asharq al-Awsat reported that more than 50 people were killed when a large group of ISIS terrorists attacked the Tunisian city of Ben Guerdan near the Libyan border early today.
“It was the second deadly clash in the border area in less than a week as Tunisia struggles to avert the large number of its nationals who have joined ISIS jihadist group in Libya from returning to spread terror at home.
Authorities sealed off the nearby beach resort town of Djerba, a popular destination for foreign and local tourists, and ordered a nighttime curfew on Ben Guerdan and closed two border crossings with Libya after the attack. Troops deployed across the border town of Ben Guerdane to chase after others involved in the coordinated pre-dawn attack,” Asharq al-Awsat reported.