Turkey ‘captures wife of dead IS leader Baghdadi’

By Suzan Fraser, Associated Press

Turkey has captured a wife of the dead leader of so-called Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Mr Erdogan made the announcement while delivering a speech in the capital Ankara but gave no other details.

One of al-Baghdadi’s aides has said the shadowy IS leader had four wives, the maximum number allowed at one time under Islamic law.

“We caught his wife, but we didn’t make a fuss about it. I am announcing this today for the first time,” Mr Erdogan said, while criticising the United States for leading a “communications campaign” about al-Baghdadi’s death.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara (Presidential Press Service/AP)

The IS leader blew himself up during an October 26 raid by US special forces on his heavily fortified safe house in the Syrian province of Idlib.

A senior Turkish official, however, said the woman was among a group of 11 Islamic State suspects detained in a police operation in Turkey’s Hatay province, near the border with Syria, on June 2, 2018.

The official identified her as Asma Fawzi Muhammad al-Qubaysi and said she was al Baghdadi’s first wife.

A subsequent DNA test confirmed that another suspect who identified herself as Leila Jabeer, was al Baghdadi’s daughter, the official said, adding that the IS leader’s DNA sample was supplied by the Iraqi government.

The detainees were being held at a deportation centre in Turkey, the official said.

Mr Erdogan’s announcement comes just days after Turkish forces captured al-Baghdadi’s elder sister, identified as Rasmiya Awad, in the town of Azaz, in Aleppo province in north-western Syria.

The area is part of the region administered by Turkey after it carried out military incursions to chase away IS militants and Kurdish fighters, starting in 2016. Allied Syrian groups manage the area known as the Euphrates Shield zone.

Awad was with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children when she was detained. A Turkish official said the 65-year-old sister is suspected of being affiliated with the extremist group and called her capture an intelligence “gold mine”.

It was not immediately clear if Awad’s capture led to intelligence that allowed for the detention of the wife.

One of al-Baghdadi’s wives is an Iraqi known by the name of Nour, the daughter of one of his aides, Abu Abdullah al-Zubaie. She was identified by name by al-Baghdadi’s brother-in-law in a recent interview with al-Arabiya TV.

The brother-in-law, Mohamad Ali Sajit, who is in Iraqi custody, said al-Baghdadi had four wives when he last met him, some time last summer.

Also, one of al-Baghdadi’s ex-wives was arrested in Lebanon in 2014, and was freed a year later in a prisoner swap with al Qaida. The Iraqi ex-wife, Saja al-Dulaimi, had fled from al-Baghdadi in 2009 while pregnant with his daughter.

At one point, al-Baghdadi was also believed to have been married to a German teenager in 2015 but she was reported to have fled a year later.

The raid that killed al-Baghdadi was a major blow to his extremist group, which has lost territories it held in Syria and Iraq in a series of military defeats by the USled coalition and Syrian and Iraqi allies.

Al-Baghdadi’s aide, a Saudi, was killed hours after the raid, also in north-western Syria, in a US strike. The group named a successor to al-Baghdadi days later, but little is known about him or how the group’s structure has been affected by the successive blows.

Up and until his death, al-Baghdadi had moved from place to place in eastern Syria amid a tightening US-led campaign against his group as IS-held territory fell bit by bit.

He ended up in Idlib, in north-western Syria, an area controlled by a rival, al-Qaida-linked militant group. It was not clear if any of his wives were with him at the time of the raid, during which two of his children were killed.