Tal Afar – The Islamic State has declared its runaway supreme leader dead, announcing it was going to name a successor soon, a source in Nineveh province said, the latest episode in clashing, unconfirmed reports around the leader’s survival.
Alsumaria News quoted a local source Tuesday saying that IS made a brief statement in the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, in which it confirmed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death without adding further details except stressing an imminent declaration of a successor and a call upon fighters to remain resilient.
Chaos flared in Tal Afar following the declaration, according to Alsumaria News’s sources. Infighting among Baghdadi’s loyalists and opponents broke out, prompting the group to carry out wide-scale arrests and to impose a curfew at most of the town.
No official Iraqi authority confirmed the reported statement, but it came one day after Alsumaria News said the group reversed a ban on discussing Baghdadi’s death and a 50-lashes punishment prescribed for the violation. The group had earlier, according to sources, executed a top preacher and a close aide to Baghdadi who inadvertently brought up the issue of his death during an emotional sermon.
Since Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, launched a major offensive in October to retake Mosul, IS’s largest bastion in Iraq, clashing speculations around Baghdadi’s survival were plentuous. Russia said it was 100% sure Baghdadi was killed in a strike in Syria last month, but its declaration was met with skepticism from the United States and other countries.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over Islamic State members in Mosul, saying the recapture of the city was an end of the self-styled “caliphate” declared by Baghdadi in 2014.