Iraqi military targets Islamic State emir’s convoy in Anbar

The Iraqi military claimed it targeted Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State, as he was traveling to meet with other commanders of his organization at a location on the border with Syria. The fate of Baghdadi, who has been reported killed or wounded several times in the past, is unknown.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense issued a statement today announcing that the Iraqi Air Force struck Baghdadi’s convoy as well as the meeting location, and claimed “many” Islamic State military commanders were killed.

“Iraqi air forces have bombed the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al Baghdadi while he was heading to Karabla to attend a meeting with Daesh [Islamic State] commanders,” the statement said, according to Reuters. “The location of the meeting was also bombed and many of the group’s leaders were killed and wounded.”

Karabla is a village located between the towns of Al Qaim and Husaybah, which are right on the border with Syria. The Islamic State is firmly in control of Al Qaim and Husaybah in Iraq, as well as Albu Kamal and the cities and towns on the Euphrates River Valley all the way up to Deir al Zour in Syria.

The Iraqi military said that Baghdadi was “carried away by a vehicle.”

The “Fate of murderer al Baghdadi is unknown… His health condition is still unclear,” the statement continued.

The Islamic State has not officially commented on the reports of Baghdadi’s convoy being targeted in an airstrike, nor has it announced his death.

On numerous occasions in the past, Baghdadi has been rumored to have been killed or seriously wounded. Most recently, in May of 2015, he was said to have been “incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage” incurred in a US airstrike in Baaj near Mosul, The Guardian reported. Baghdadi was purportedly being treated by doctors in Mosul and is said to have turned over control of the group to his deputy, Abu Alaa al Afri.

If the Guardian report is true, and Baghdadi was incapacitated in April, he was no longer in command, and being treated in Mosul, it is unclear why the Islamic State would move him hundreds of miles south for a meeting with military commanders in Anbar province.

While the Iraqi military’s record of reporting on the deaths of top Islamic State leaders is spotty, the US has had success in killing top jihadist leaders in Iraq and Syria. In August, the US military announced the death of Fadhil Ahmad al Hayali (a.k.a. Hajji Mutazz), the “senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,” in an airstrike in Mosul.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • mike merlo says:

    at least some people over in the Syrian Iraqi Theater are working on gathering usable/actionable Intelligence/Information

    • James says:

      Yo Mike,

      Weren’t you the one that was cheering on ISIS just a while back? What has changed since then?

      • mike merlo says:

        @ James

        I’m all for Muslims warring it up with each other. Nothing has “changed” for me.

  • irebukeu says:

    I don’t believe this for one minute. If the convoy and the meeting spot were hit by airstrikes yet they know that abu Bakr was “carried away by a vehicle.”?
    One might ask why not hit that vehicle. Oh well.
    I don’t buy it for one second yet I may be dead wrong. I hope I am dead wrong.

  • m. b. says:

    Dead isis leaders. thats good news for iraq and syria & kurds; Even if bag-daddy managed to survive we will not hear more of him for a long time. Russia its speeding up things….in the me.

  • Dominic Chan says:

    This is the only positive story about the Iraqi military thus far in 12 years of the Iraqi conflict. Hopefully something positive like this can motivate the Iraqi military organizations.

  • Verneoz says:

    If Obama had instituted a formal “hunter-killer” program targeting the ISIS leadership and oil assets, the capabilities of ISIS would be seen eroding by now. This could be done precisely and with minimal involvement by US SPECOPS forces.

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