Iraq Investigating IS Chief's Fate After Air Strikes

Sun Nov 9, 2014 18:06:47

As it is confirmed Abdul Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Saja, one of key ISIS terrorist’s group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi top aids, have died in the attacks on Friday, Iraq was on Sunday investigating whether IAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in air strikes targeting the group's leaders.

The death of the elusive Baghdadi would be a major victory for Iraq fighting to regain areas that the terrorists have overrun."Until now, there is no accurate information available," a senior Iraqi intelligence official said when asked about whether Baghdadi had been killed.

Various reports from Iraq say that ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have been critically wounded or perhaps killed in a coalition airstrike, either on the border town of al-Qaim, just a few miles from the Syrian border, or near Mosul.

Iraqi officials told The New York Times that a strike in al-Qaim, a town on the Syrian border in Anbar province, hit a meeting of ISIS leaders, killing many—including possibly two regional governors.

But another airstrike on a leadership convoy near the northern town of Mosul, 180 miles away, was confirmed by the US Central Command on Saturday. It was unclear if Bahgdadi had been among those targeted in that strike.

"The information is from unofficial sources and was not confirmed until now, and we are working on that," the official said without specifying what the initial reports indicated.

US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, on Saturday said that coalition aircraft conducted a "series of air strikes" against "a gathering of (IS) leaders near Mosul".

"We cannot confirm if (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present," said Centcom spokesman Patrick Ryder.

As Guardian reports, A key aide to the leader of Islamic State (Isis) was killed in a US strike on a convoy near the Iraqi city of Mosul that destroyed 10 vehicles carrying a number of the group’s top militants.

Abdul Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Saja, is known to have died in the attack on Friday. A key aide to the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he travelled frequently with the group’s top leadership.

"I can't absolutely confirm that Baghdadi has been killed," General Nicholas Houghton, the chief of staff of the British armed forces, told BBC television on Sunday. "Probably it will take some days to have absolute confirmation."

Washington has offered a $10 million reward for his capture, and some analysts say he is increasingly seen as more powerful than Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Wave of car bombs

The fight to regain ground from IS will take a heavy toll on the predominantly Sunni areas in Iraq that the group now holds.Highlighting the enormous security challenges Iraq faces, a wave of car bombs struck Shiite-majority areas of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 43 people.

The deadliest blast hit the city's sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.

Another car bomb detonated on a commercial street in Baghdad's busy central Karadah district, killing seven people and wounding at least 21, officials said

Iraqi Troops Advance to Break ISIS Siege on Baiji Refinery

Iraqi military forces reached the Centre of the northern city of Baiji on Sunday to try to break an ISIS siege of the country's biggest refinery nearby, triggering fierce clashes with the militants, according to an army colonel and witnesses.

ISIS insurgents seized Baiji city in June during a lightning advance through northern Iraq. Since then, they have surrounded the refinery and halted its production while a detachment of government troops has held out for months under siege inside it.

The colonel said Iraqi troops entered Baiji, a city of about 200,000 people, from the south and west and took over the al-Tamim neighborhoods and city Centre.

ISIS had placed bombs along roads in Baiji and deployed snipers to keep government forces from advancing, tactics used in other cities held by the ultra-hardline Sunni group, which controls swathes of both Iraq and Syria.

"There are IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and snipers that are slowing down the advance, but the presence of the air force has facilitated the process of dismantling the IEDs in order to push forward," said the colonel."


On Friday night, a suicide bomber rammed a truck packed with explosives into a Humvee transporting senior police commander General Faisal Malik, one of the supervisors of the campaign against ISIS militants surrounding the refinery.

The general and two policemen were killed. The truck used in the attack was armored, the army colonel and a provincial police command Centre said, suggesting ISIS had seized it from Iraqi troops.

Tanks and anti-aircraft weapons have also been taken. The army colonel estimated that Iraqi forces had taken about 40 percent of the city Centre.

Late last month, Iraqi government forces tried a new approach. Backed by Shiite Muslim militias and helicopter gunships, they circled Baiji from the west in order to retake the city and cut off supply lines to insurgents surrounding the refinery a few km (miles) away.

Government forces, including counter-terrorism units, inside the compound have been surviving on airdrops as military forces outside tried to drive ISIS militants away.

The Baiji refinery was producing around 175,000 barrels per day before it was closed, a senior Iraqi official said in June.

Iraq's domestic daily consumption is estimated at 600,000-700,000 bpd.If the siege of the Baiji refinery is broken, Iraq's government is likely to describe it as a major victory over ISIS.

The United States, which fought ISIS's predecessor al Qaeda during the American occupation of Iraq, will send up to 1,500 more troops to train Iraqi forces. Britain also plans to send trainers.

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