ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'seriously injured' in air strike

Injured: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Injured: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Sources have told the Guardian ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been seriously injured in an air strike in Iraq.

A source with connections to the extremist group told Middle East correspondents Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen the evasive leader was injured in March during an air strike by the US-led coalition. 

The source said Baghdadi’s wounds were at first life-threatening, but he has since made a slow recovery, the Guardian reported. He has not, however, resumed day-to-day control of the organisation.

An urgent meeting was organised subsequent to the near-fatal attack. The aim was to appoint a new leader if al-Baghdadi succumbed to his wounds. 

Two separate officials – a western diplomat and an Iraqi adviser – confirmed to the Guardian the air-strike took place on 18 March in the al-Baaj a district of Nineveh, close to the Syrian border. 

Late last year it was reported the enigmatic leader of the extremist group was seriously wounded in an air-strike that was targeting high-ranking members of the organisation.

These reports, however, were not considered accurate. 

The air-strike in March targeted a three-vehicle convoy between the village of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan. Three high-ranking members of ISIS were killed but it was not known at the time Baghdadi was travelling with them. 

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official who advises Baghdad on Isis, told the Guardian: “Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him.”

Baghdadi had at least one earlier brush with death when US jets attacked a two-car convoy on the outskirts of Mosul on 14 December. 

A close aide of his, a man named as Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery, was fatally wounded when a rocket fired from a war plane hit one of the cars. Baghdadi was believed to be in the second car, which was not hit.

In recent months, air strikes have been increasingly effective in targeting the Isis leadership. Baghdadi’s deputy, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, and the head of the group’s military operations in Iraq were both killed in early December.

The US-led coalition has focussed their strikes on the evasive leadership of the organisation.