Despite the launch of a major offensive on the last pocket of the ISIS extremist group in eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border, the leader of the terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi might succeed once again in escaping, observers have warned.
While the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US-led coalition launched on September 10 the final phase of the attack on ISIS, targeting Hajin town and its suburbs, where Baghdadi is believed to exist, many have speculated that he might have already escaped.
Prominent Kurdish figure Rezdst Kubani who was present at a military position in the area said that: “It is the last stronghold for ISIS fighters. All its foreign leaders and warlords from outside Syria are gathered in the towns of al-Soussa, Hajin and al-Shaafa and we will kill them there.”
Baghdadi masters the art of disguise
But Hassan Hassan, a senior research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University said that monitoring the location of Baghdadi may not be easy.
Hassan told AFP news agency that Baghdadi “learned how to hide well,” adding that he and his organization “had learned lessons from the mistakes which ended the lives of their leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and their military commander Abu Hamza al-Muhajir in 2010,” meaning that “only a small number of trusted people know where is he.”
While Hisham al-Hashemi, the Iraqi expert in the extremist organization, said that: “Baghdadi is hiding in the Syrian desert, an area between Iraq and Syria, and he moves between the Baaj (northwest of Iraq) and Hajin in Syria.”
Waiting for a fatal mistake
A senior Iraqi intelligence official said in early May that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in an area on the Iraqi-Syrian border and was traveling “in hiding, not in a convoy, accompanied by four to five people, including his son and son-in-law.”
Commenting on the incident, researcher Hassan Hassan, pointed out that these areas appear limited on the map, but “on the ground they are large areas of mountains, deserts, rivers and villages in Iraq and Syria, providing many hideouts.”
He added that “With the strong technical support of the US-led coalition, the Iraqis and the Syrians have the resources to monitor him, and he may be arrested for an error committed by himself or his men,” he said.
This error may be similar to the one that almost happened on November, 3, 2016, when the Guardian newspaper reported in January, “when he spoke 45 seconds on the radio with his men during the Iraqi forces’ offensive to restore Mosul, He was spotted immediately.”
“His bodyguards took him away immediately after they realized what he had done,” said a senior Kurdish official who listened to the radio during the incident.
If Baghdadi can escape this time, he may join secret cells of the organization in another part of Iraq or Syria.
News of Baghdadi escape to Afghanistan through Iran
Meanwhile, Asharq al-Awssat newspaper quoted security sources and other extremist groups in Pakistan as saying that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi arrived in the state of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan after crossing the Iranian territory.
Baghdadi relocation, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified, came after the arrival of hundreds of ISIS members to the province after crossing the Iranian territory, through the city of Zahedan in eastern Iran, where sources said that the terrorist organization maintains a headquarter of the hospitality of its fighters with the knowledge and coordination with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Baghadadi, one of the world’s most wanted, has survived over the years from several air strikes and at least once been wounded, but experts still warn he is mastering the art of disguise and may also escape this time.SHOW MORE