Pentagon claims Baghdadi losing control of troops

Iraqi forces flash the sign of victory as they drive their vehicle on November 3, 2016 near Gogjali, which lies on the eastern edge of Mosul. (AFP)

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is losing the ability to control his troops as the battle for Mosul rages on, a US military official said Thursday. The group earlier released an audio message purportedly of Baghdadi urging his followers not to retreat as Iraqi security forces continue their push toward the northern Iraqi city.

Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition attacking the ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said although the military had not officially verified the recording’s authenticity, it was “clearly” an effort for ISIS leaders to communicate with fighters.

“One of the interesting things that we have seen in the English translation of this is that Baghdadi is saying, ‘Don’t fight amongst yourselves,’” he told reporters. “This is the type of thing that a leader who is losing command and control and ability to keep everybody on the same page says. We don’t believe it is going to work.”

Rumors have abounded about the ISIS leader’s health and movements but his whereabouts are unclear. The coalition still doesn’t know where Baghdadi is, Dorrian said. “If we knew where he was, he would be killed at once. So we don’t know where he is.” The coalition has also seen a shrinking of ISIS propaganda, the colonel added, with the group’s publications dwindling from 700 in August 2015 to 200 this year.

Mosque targeted south of Mosul

ISIS militants took over a mosque and several houses in an Iraqi town south of Mosul on Friday, a local police officer said, killing seven soldiers and fighters from the Popular Mobilization force. The attack on the town of Shirqat appeared to be another diversionary strike by the ultra-hardline militants as they face a coordinated assault on their Mosul stronghold, 100 km to the north, by an array of US-backed Iraqi forces.

ISIS militants have attacked several targets since the start of the Mosul campaign on Oct. 17. Similar attacks took place in the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, southeast of Mosul, and in the desert town of Rutba close to the borders with Syria and Jordan, and were repelled after several days of fighting.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48