The leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage and is being treated by two doctors who travel to his hideout from the group’s stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, the Guardian reported on Friday.
More than two months after being injured in an airstrike in north-western Iraq, the self-proclaimed caliph is yet to resume command of the terror group that has been rampaging through Iraq and Syria since June last year, the report said.
Three sources close to ISIS confirmed to the British newspaper that Baghdadi’s wounds could mean he will never again lead the organization.
According to the Guardian, ISIS is now being led by a long-term senior official, Abu Alaa al-Afri, who had been appointed deputy leader when his predecessor was killed by an air strike late last year.
Details of Baghdadi’s condition, and of the physicians treating him, have emerged since the newspaper revealed he had been seriously wounded on March 18 in an airstrike that killed three men he was travelling with. The attack took place in al-Baaj, 80 miles west of Mosul.
The Pentagon subsequently denied that Baghdadi had been killed and, while it acknowledged that it had carried out the attack, claimed to be unaware that the world’s most wanted man had been among the casualties.
Sources within Mosul, who refused to be named, said a female radiologist from a main Mosul hospital and a male surgeon had treated Baghdadi. Both, along with their extended families, are strong ideological supporters of the group.
“The women’s sons work in the hospital,” said one Mosul resident with knowledge of Baghdadi’s wounds. “They dress like Kandaharis and even carry guns inside. Both are on the regional health board.
“The man is not a renowned surgeon, but he is absolutely with them [Isis]. His daughter married a Salafist and said she was going to have as many children as she could to fight the enemies of Islam,” added the resident.
Only a small clique of Isis leaders know the extent of Baghdadi’s injuries, or where he is being treated. Fewer still have visited him. However, word of his wounds has started to spread to the group’s second-tier leadership, where talk is rife of avenging the most serious blow to Isis since the group overran half of Iraq.
Afri is a professor of physics and a long-term member of ISIS. He was touted as successor to the group’s previous leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a raid near Tikrit in April 2010.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assumed the mantle of leader in the days following his predecessor’s death, but has dramatically risen to prominence since early 2013, when the group first made its presence felt in Syria’s civil war.
Baghdadi previously escaped a near fatal strike last December 14 outside of Mosul, when a U.S. airstrike hit a two-car convoy. His aide Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery was killed by a rocket strike on one of the cars, but Baghdadi was in the other car that was not struck.
In November, Baghdadi released a recording to dispel rumors that he had been killed in an airstrike.
In that recording, he said the target of his group is Rome, the capital of Italy and the seat of the Vatican. ISIS has made its intentions to target the location as a symbol of Christianity known in the past, and intelligence hinting the group was planning to assassinate Pope Francis in September led security to be beefed up at the site.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)