Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and self-proclaimed caliph Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi fled the northern city of Mosul to return to Syrian territory after the US authorized airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq, a Kurdish official said.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) spokesman Saeed Mamo Zinni said: “Caliph of the Islamic State Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi left Mosul for Syria a few days ago.”
“According to our intelligence sources, Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi traveled to Syria as part of a convoy of 30 Hummer vehicles after fearing being targeted by US airstrikes,” Zinni said. He added that Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been able to kill a number of ISIS senior leaders.
Zinni, a media official for the KDP regional office in Nineveh, went on to claim that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had repelled an ISIS attack in the Zammar district of Diyala province.
ISIS continued its attack on Iraqi Yazidis on Wednesday despite US airstrikes.
An informed source in Mosul, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said that ISIS had killed all Yazidi men in the villages it had besieged around Sinjar after a deadline for them to convert to Islam expired. “[ISIS fighters also] raped the women and girls, and took the children to Mosul,” he added.
The source claimed that ISIS had recruited several young men from Mosul, and that many of the new recruits were sent to fight in the arid Jazeera region in Syria.
The source said: “Whoever has authorization from ISIS is transferred to areas near Mosul. Others are sent to the fighting in Syria after three days of military training at the Kindi training camp.”
The source added that ISIS have taken over an entire floor of Mosul Hospital, after suffering a large number of casualties in recent battles with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and had also launched a drive for local residents to donate blood to the wounded.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga Ministry announced on Wednesday the arrival of French military aid.
Brig. Gen. Halgurd Hikmat, the official spokesman of the Peshmerga Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Many countries expressed willingness to help the Peshmerga forces militarily, including the US, Britain, France, Finland, Italy and Canada.”
“The French military aid arrived over the past few days. Aid from the US and other countries also arrived, but I do not want to name those other countries now . . .We are still waiting for more arms from our allies,” he added.
Hikmat said the new arms were a mixture of light and heavy weapons, and that 130 additional US military advisors had also arrived in the region to assist Peshmerga with advice and planning. He added that a number of foreign countries had also offered to train Kurdish troops in the use of their new weapons.