An Iraqi lawmaker says Baghdad has received intelligence on the whereabouts of a number of senior Daesh terrorists inside Syria, and that it is planning to carry out airstrikes on those targets to eliminate the Takfiri outfit’s ringleader known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Abdel Aziz Hassan, the rapporteur of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, was quoted by Iraqi media as saying on Monday that Baghdad is in possession of information about the presence of a number of Daesh militant leaders at a border area between Iraq and Syria.
Hassan said Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai, was expected to be at one of those sites inside Syria, adding that the Iraqi government would seek the Damascus government’s approval before launching the air raid.
Earlier on Monday, Iraqi warplanes killed Abu Luqman al-Suri, a notorious Daesh leader who is believed to be the deputy of Baghdadi, in an aerial attack on terrorist hotbeds inside Syria.
Iraqi fighter jets have killed Daesh second-in-command during an airstrike inside the Syrian territory.
Intelligence sources said that Suri was “in charge of recruiting attackers and dispatching them to Iraq to carry out bomb attacks there.”
The development came a day after Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool stated that Iraqi military aircraft had launched a series of attacks in Syria, killing 36 Daesh militants. There were six senior leaders among the slain Takfiris.
Earlier in February, Iraqi authorities published a list of “internationally wanted terrorist leaders” headed by Baghdadi.
Abu Ali al-Basri, the head of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s intelligence and counter-terrorism operations service, also said Baghdadi was alive and hiding” in Jazira region, in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah.
Multiple unverified reports have emerged over the past months of Baghdadi’s death or injury.
Back in June last year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said that it was “highly likely” that Baghdadi had been eliminated in an airstrike of the Russian Air Force on a militant command post in a southern suburb of the Syrian city of Raqqah in late May.
A month later, an unnamed local source in Iraq’s Nineveh province told Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumeria satellite television network that Daesh had announced the death of its leader in a brief statement released via the terrorist group’s media outlet in the center of Tal Afar city, situated 63 kilometers west of Mosul, without providing further details.
A few days after the al-Sumeria’s report, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that there was no evidence that Baghdadi was dead despite the Takfiri group’s confirmation that its ringleader “has been killed.”
Daesh threatens Iraqi election
The news of the Iraqi airstrikes on Daesh leaders comes amid threats by the Takfiri group to carry out attacks against Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month.
In an audio message released late on Sunday, Daesh spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir threatened that anyone who runs or votes in the May 12 election would be targeted.
Daesh started a campaign of terror against Syria and Iraq in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
It, however, lost all of its strongholds in both Arab countries last year thanks to counter-terrorism offensives of the national Iraqi and Syrian armies, backed by their allies.