ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding out in a remote region of Afghanistan, a respected security expert has claimed.
He fled his bolthole, believed to be in either Iraq or Syria, when the terror regime’s caliphate in those countries collapsed.
And now it has been suggested that he has joined other ISIS leaders and fighters who left the region to join up with the terror cult’s faction in eastern Afghanistan known as Islamic State- Khorasan Province or simply IS-KP.
Zaid Hamid, a founding member of the BrassTacks threat analysis think tank, pointed out that in his latest viral video address he was seated on furnishings peculiar to the region.
The veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war tweeted: “This is a grab from the latest video of ISIS leader Baghdadi.
“Note the style of the bedding & the pillows….Is he already in Afghanistan?”
WORLD'S MOST WANTED MAN
He went on to suggest he was in the Khorasan province and one follower said: “A very valid observation sir.”
However, it would appear unlikely that the Hashmi, the world’s most wanted man, is in Afghanistan because he would have had to travel across Shiite-dominated Iran.
The claim is also at odds with that of Husham al-Hashmi, an Iraqi expert in extremist groups, who believes al-Baghdadi is still Syria or Iraq.
He said his location can be narrowed down to just four locations following his first video appearance in almost five years.
Speaking with the Rudaw news outlet, Hashmi said: “Iraq since September 2018 through a special cell formed with US Special Operations Command has been monitoring, looking for al-Baghdadi.
“They have up to now succeeded in eliminating 13 out of 17 possible locations.”
The possible locations are the deserts of Iraq’s western Anbar, Iraq’s Wadi Houran — a riverbed in Anbar — or in Syria’s mid-east Homs desert.
Baghdadi could also be heading elsewhere — toward the so-called “Mohammed Peninsula”, a term found in Islamic discourse referring to the Saudi peninsula.
On Monday, Baghdadi appeared in a new video, where he mentioned the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, that was widely circulated across Islamist propaganda outlets.
It was only his second confirmed appearance since 2014 when he released video proclaiming the ISIS caliphate from Mosul.
Baghdadi video unlikely to provide clues to location, expert says
- According to terrorism expert Dr Paul Stott, from the Henry Jackson Society, the background in the video is unlikely to provide clues to Baghdadi's location.
- Instead, an electronic foot print or the behaviour of his followers are more likely to lead to the jihadi.
- “What we most likely have is an eight day window between the Easter Sunday attacks, and the video being uploaded," he told The Sun Online.
- “If they have a lead, it is either via the upload, or what people have been doing in that eight day period.
- “If particular groups of people under surveillance by the authorities have been missing in that eight day period, if they were travelling in convoy or behaving differently, that could be a sign of when or where this video was made.”
Baghdadi, surrounded by his lieutenants, remained defiant, emphasising the group’s struggle continues and that they haven’t been defeated.
He focused on a war of attrition and hit-and-run insurgency, implicitly admitting ISIS can no longer hold territory.
The group’s last bastion of Baghouz, eastern Syria, was liberated by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on March 23.
A large number of the ISIS fighters and their families surrendered while some detained ISIS wives remain committed to the group’s ideology.
Nevertheless, many fighters had long been disillusioned with their absent leader, deserting and accusing Baghdadi of betraying the cause.
“Baghdadi tried to relieve the anger and pain that members of the organisation suffered from in Baghouz by talking about the latest operations in Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia, which he dubbed ‘revenge operations’,” Hashimi said.
The security expert believes Baghdadi’s words will embolden ISIS loyalists.
He said: “Yes, the appearance of Baghdadi will give a charge of hope to supports, intensify their response to him, foil the widening of schisms and rebellion, and decrease the blaming and dissatisfaction of followers for his long absence.
“It also nullifies rumours of him going far away from the Iraqi and Syrian geography.”
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