Security increased of IS prisons
BEIRUT, Oct 28, (Agencies): Syrian Kurdish forces killed the right-hand man and spokesman for the Islamic State group in a joint operation with US troops in northern Syria, just hours after US special forces killed the extremist group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a Kurdish commander said Monday.
The comments came a day after US President Donald Trump announced the killing of al-Baghdadi, a development that left IS without an obvious leader – a major setback for a terror organization that in March was forced by American troops and Kurdish forces out of the last portion of its selfdeclared “caliphate,” which once spanned a swath of Iraq and Syria.
Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said his group’s intelligence cooperated with the US military to target on Sunday al-Baghdadi’s aide, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, in a village near Jarablus, a town in northwestern Syria. It was part of ongoing operations to hunt down IS leaders, Abdi said. If confirmed, the death of the would be another blow to IS. US officials had no immediate comment on the Syrian Kurdish claim or on the fate of al-Muhajir.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported al-Muhajir’s death, saying he was travelling in a convoy made up of an oil tanker and a sedan. The bodies of those killed in the attack were charred and it wasn’t immediately clear how the al-Muhajir’s identity could have been confirmed.
The US raid that killed al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of IS who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world’s most wanted terrorist, took place just before midnight on Saturday in Syria’s Idlib province. Syrian Kurdish forces said Monday they are increasing security at prisons and detention facilities holding tens of thousands of Islamic State militants and supporters, including foreigners, following the death of the extremist group’s leader in a US military raid.
The heightened security also comes as Kurdish forces said they are continuing operations to hunt down IS leaders in Syria. Forces from the Kurdish-led internal security agency were “on high alert” after al-Baghdadi’s death in anticipation of possible riots or attacks on the prisons and camps for displaced people in northeastern Syria where IS members or supporters are located, an official with the agency said.
One of the camps is home to 70,000 people, most of them relatives of the extremists. More than 10,000 prisoners, including 2,000 foreigners, are held in detention facilities in northeastern Syria. Fear of chaos already was running high over the fate of those detained after this month’s Turkish military invasion of northeastern Syria, which ushered in major troop changes in the area. Turkey moved troops into areas along the border, while Syrian border guards were deployed in others.
Kurdish officials had said they needed to divert fighters and logistics to the front line to ward off the Turkish offensive. A shaky cease-fire is in place and an agreement to redeploy Kurdish forces away from the borders. Security forces have been able to secure the prisons, according to another official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
News of al-Baghdadi’s death had not yet been formally announced to those in the camps on Monday, but many of them have telephones and news has most likely reached them. In their long hunt for al-Baghdadi, Iraqi intelligence teams secured a break in February 2018 after one of the Islamic State leader’s top aides gave them information on how he escaped capture for so many years, said two Iraqi security officials. Baghdadi would sometimes hold strategy talks with his commanders in moving minibuses packed with vegetables in order to avoid detection, Ismael al-Ethawi told officials after he was arrested by Turkish authorities and handed to the Iraqis. “Ethawi gave valuable information which helped the Iraqi multi-security agencies team complete the missing pieces of the puzzle of Baghdadi’s movements and places he used to hide,” one of the Iraqi security officials said. “Ethawi gave us details on five men, including him, whom were meeting Baghdadi inside Syria and the different locations they used,” he told Reuters.
US President Trump said on Sunday that Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying” in a raid by US special forces in the Idlib region of northwest Syria. Survivors and families of the victims of the deadly 2015 extremist attacks around Paris say they are relieved at the death of al-Baghdadi but warn that the fight against extremism is not over.
Al-Baghdadi was responsible for directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe. His killing by US forces, which was announced Sunday, leaves the Islamic State without an obvious leader, a major setback for an organization that in March was forced by American troops and Kurdish forces out of the last part of its self-declared “caliphate,” which once spanned a swath of Iraq and Syria.