US and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS in Mosul, believe that the leader of the militant group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has fled the battleground to his commanders to hide somewhere in the desert.
Baghdadi is only focusing on his survival after his militias have been facing defeats in the region since 2016.
It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph”, who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014, reported Reuters.
But U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population centre his group has ever held.
He has proved to be an elusive target, rarely using communication that can be monitored, and always moving, often multiple times in one 24-hour cycle, the sources say.
From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in native desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.