Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) caliphatist group that has usurped territory in much of the Middle East, was seriously wounded in an air strike in western Iraq, the Guardian reports.
A local source told the Guardian that Baghdadi was critically injured in a March strike, but his injuries are no longer life threatening, and the self-declared Caliph of the Islamic State is on a slow road to recovery. However, the ISIS leader has not been able to command his jihadi group’s day-to-day operations, and he has temporarily shifted those responsibilities to other individuals in the Islamic State’s Shura Council, the source claimed.
When it appeared as if Baghdadi may succumb to his wounds, the ISIS inner circle met to discuss a successor for the jihadi group, the report adds.
Baghdadi’s three-car convoy was attacked on March 18 near the Syrian border, an unnamed western diplomat and Iraqi advisor confirmed with the Guardian. Iraqi advisor Hisham al-Hashimi told the publication, “Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him.” The advisor explained that Baghdadi chose al-Baaj “because he knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there.” He added, “From 2003 (the US military) barely had a presence there. It was one part of Iraq that they hadn’t mapped out.”
Just four days earlier, a U.S. air strike blew up one of the cars in Baghdadi’s two-car escort outside of Mosul, resulting in the death of his confidant, Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery, who was believed to be in the other vehicle.
Baghdadi, who has been described by jihadists as the successor to Osama bin Laden, was born in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq. He was reportedly captured in 2004 during the most recent Iraq war and spent close to a year at U.S. military prison Camp Bucca in the south of Iraq.