Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled Mosul.
Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled Mosul. Uncredited

IS chief escaped Mosul siege via bombed road

ABU Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State and self-declared Caliph, escaped from the siege of Mosul two months ago when the road to the west was briefly reopened in a fierce counter-attack by IS fighters, according to a senior Kurdish official.

"ISIS (IS) used 17 suicide car bombs from Mosul and some of their units from Syria to clear the road leading out of Mosul for a few hours,” said Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, in an interview with The Independent.

He said he and other Kurdish leaders believed IS would only carry out such an elaborate operation, in which they suffered heavy casualties, in order to bring al-Baghdadi to safety.

The escape took place after the fall of east Mosul and before the Iraqi security forces began their final attack on IS-held west Mosul on February 19.

Mr Hussein said IS "brought 300 of their fighters from Syria and it was a very fierce fight”.

The only possible escape route out of Mosul for IS is to the west, through territory held by the Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia. Their forced retreat enabled IS briefly to gain control of the road.

"I believe myself that they freed al-Baghdadi,” Mr Hussein said, pointing out that the IS unit from Syria returned there immediately and monitoring of IS radio traffic showed they were jubilant they had carried out a successful operation.

IS's leader since 2010, Al-Baghdadi led it to a series of spectacular victories including the seizure of Mosul in 2014. - INM



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