The self-declared leader of the Islamic State, believed to have been travelling in an armoured convoy destroyed by an American air-strike on Friday, may have been critically injured in the attack, although it is now thought early hopes of him having been killed in the raid were premature.
American warplanes targeted a ten-vehicle convoy travelling to the south-west of ISIS-held stronghold Mosul in Northern Iraq on Friday, destroying all the armoured cars present. This intelligence-led strike was targeting senior ISIS official Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, a close aid of ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was thought to be in one of the vehicles.
The presence of this figure in a vehicle convoy, now a rarer sight in Iraq and Syria as they are obvious targets for air attack, led American intelligence operatives to say the convoy “was assessed to be a gathering of [Isis] leaders”.
Caliph al-Baghdadi’s right-hand man al-Athaee was killed, along with dozens of others in the attack, however intelligence analysts monitoring ISIS communications traffic say there is no indication that al-Baghdadi has yet perished.
Normal channels for communication including twitter and special online forums have yet to dissent from the line espoused by one jihad twitter account that said: “I can report to the Muslims that Amir Al-Momineen Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Hafid hu’allah is alive and well,” reports The Daily Mail.
Despite the excitement generated by the suggestion that the first Caliph in nearly 100 years had been killed by a targeted air-strike, Western military figures were keen to point out his death would not mean the end of ISIS, far from it. The leadership of organisations like ISIS has shown a strong tendency to regenerate organically.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on Sunday morning, chief of the defence staff General Houghton said: “What I wouldn’t want to do is rush to the sense that the potential death of one of their totemic leaders is going to create some strategic reverse in Isis”.
Coalition forces are keeping up air-strikes against ISIS to give opposing forces on the ground breathing space to regroup and push back against spreading Islamism. The group of militaries contributing force to the campaign against ISIS includes Anglosphere nations the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and European nations including France and Germany.