ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has survived a coup attempt by foreign militants in his eastern Syrian hideout, intelligence officials believe, and the extremist organization has since placed a bounty on the main plotter’s head, The Guardian reported.
The incident is believed to have taken place on January 10 in a village near Hajin in the Euphrates River valley, where the extremist group is clinging to its tiny last pocket of land, the UK newspaper said.
It quoted regional intelligence officials as saying that a planned move against Baghdadi led to a firefight between foreign fighters and the fugitive terrorist chief’s bodyguards, who spirited him away to the nearby deserts.
ISIS has offered a reward to whomever kills Abu Muath al-Jazairi, believed to be a veteran Algerian militant, one of an estimated 500 extremists thought to remain in the area.
“They got wind of it just in time,” an intelligence official said. “There was a clash and two people were killed. This was the foreign fighter element, some of his most trusted people.”
But The Guardian said that while rumors of unrest within ISIS have swirled in recent months, there has been little – until now – to suggest a serious threat from within to Baghdadi’s leadership or life.
UN sanctions monitors said Wednesday that the group has not been defeated in Syria and continues to pose by far the most significant threat of any terror group.
There are between 14,000 and 18,000 ISIS militants in Syria and in Iraq, including up to 3,000 foreign militants, according to a report by the sanctions monitoring team presented to the Security Council.
The report contradicted US President Donald Trump's claims that ISIS is nearly wiped out.