The head of the Islamic State is reportedly injured so badly he can barely move, Kareem Shaheen at The Guardian reports.
“Sources tell us Baghdadi is still alive, but still unable to move due to spinal injury sustained in the March air strike,” Shaheen tweeted.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who last year declared himself “caliph” of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), was reportedly wounded in a US-led air strike in March.
Martin Chulov at The Guardian, who last week broke the news of the air strike, also says his sources tell him that Baghdadi is still alive and is being treated by doctors from Mosul. He has reportedly suffered a spinal injury.
Information on Baghdadi’s reported injury and the air strike that supposedly caused it is still sketchy.
Two officials, one Western and one Iraqi, confirmed to The Guardian that the air strike targeted multiple cars in the town of Baaj in northwestern Iraq on March 18, but the Pentagon said the air strike was not aimed at a high-value target and that they “have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi.”
Chulov reports that officials didn’t know that Baghdadi was in one of the cars targeted in the airstrike. He was reportedly staying in that area of Iraq because he “knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there,” a source who is aware of Baghdadi’s movements told The Guardian.
Baghdadi is reportedly recovering slowly but has not resumed day-to-day control of ISIS. A former physics teacher from Mosul was installed as ISIS’s new temporary leader while Baghdadi recovers, an Iraqi government adviser told Newsweek last week.
Newsweek describes Abu Alaa Afri as a “rising star” within ISIS, and the Iraqi government adviser, Hisham al Hashimi, said Afri had become even more important than the injured “caliph” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Afri will become ISIS’ new permanent leader if Baghdadi dies, Hashimi said.
Having a caliph with a background of religious education is important to ISIS, which has shaped its self-proclaimed caliphate around a strict interpretation of sharia law. The group recruits people to come live in its territory by marketing it as an Islamic utopia.
Der Spiegel reported recently that early leaders of ISIS, many of whom are former Iraqi intelligence officers from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, decided to make Baghdadi caliph because he, as an “educated cleric,” would “give the group a religious face.”
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