An Iraqi government report has determined that ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been hiding out in one of four towns along the border region between Iraq and Syria, an Iraqi military source told The New Arab.
The report, which was released on Monday by Iraqi military intelligence, said Baghdadi was hiding in the remote area, where his supporters are plenty and the potential for informers fewer.
“The report specified four possible locations for Baghdadi; two in Iraq and two in Syria,” a high-ranking Iraqi military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, revealed.
“It said it was also possible that he could have infiltrated government-controlled areas such as Baghdad, if he had undergone plastic surgery to conceal his identity, bypassing security checkpoints around the capital,” the source said.
Iraqi authorities believe Baghdadi may have been hiding out in the western Iraqi towns of al-Baaj or al-Qaim. The other possibilities were the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour and the Syrian town of al-Bukamal, according to the source.
“Baghdadi has excelled at moving around undetected and often travels with a single companion Abu Ali al-Somali, who is a former member of Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda and originally from Somalia,” he added.
The report failed to include the extremists’ de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which a US-backed Kurdish alliance has been recently advancing on, capturing the nearby Tabqa city and its strategic dam on Wednesday.
US officials said this month that the IS leader had fled the group’s former Iraqi bastion of Mosul and was hiding out in the desert.
The sparsely populated desert region is inhabited chiefly by loyal Sunni tribes. Baghdadi and his guards are believed to follow strict security protocols to cover their tracks.
At least 56 of ISIS’ top leaders have been killed largely in US-led coalition air raids since 2015, but the deaths have led to the emergence of a new generation of mysterious “ghost-like” commanders taking up senior roles within the militant group.
Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that it was only “a matter of time” before Baghdadi was killed.
ISIS has suffered heavy losses over the past two years in both Iraq and Syria.