Erbil – The Islamic State’s (ISIS) supreme leader and ‘Caliph,’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has reportedly chosen to remain in Mosul city in order to marshal his remaining forces.
Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Hoshyar Zebari said on Wednesday that al-Baghdadi had not left Mosul, disregarding the US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish columns advancing on his de-facto capital. Zebari has previously served as Iraq’s Finance Minister and Foreign Minister. He has also held senior portfolios within the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Zebari’s statement corresponds with intelligence reports that were shared with ARA News. Those reports said that al-Baghdadi was still in Mosul alongside ISIS commander Fawzi Ali.
“ISIS terrorists are under heavy pressure amid the continuous progress by the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army,” Zebari said. He added that allied forces have continued to move “towards Mosul city since the start of the operation earlier this week.”
The presence of al-Baghdadi in Mosul is reportedly meant to raise the morale of his jihadists in the face of overwhelming force. Though al-Baghdadi has apparently not left Mosul that option remains open to him.
A Peshmerga officer told ARA News, that it could take weeks to besiege Iraq’s second largest city. Even after a cordon has been established ISIS militants could attempt a breakout, using their tunnel networks.
“Under heavy blows by the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi Army, supported by the coalition’s airstrikes, ISIS won’t be able to hold out for long in Mosul,” media activist Sipan Saleh told ARA News. “Whether al-Baghdadi is there or not, it won’t matter much. Once the anti-ISIS forces enter the city, a large surge of dissidents are expected to hit the group’s back ranks.”
Reporting by: Ehmed Sawes | Source: ARA News
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