THE shadowy leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is hiding in the desert after fleeing an attempted coup by fellow militants vying to control the terror group.
Al-Baghdadi – who has been reported killed or wounded on a number of occasions – is believed to have survived the firefight, according to a report.
The Guardian says the fugitive Isis leader managed to flee fighters from his inner circle while in his eastern Syrian hideout, as his bodyguards shepherded him to safety in the nearby deserts.
ISIS is so keen to have the alleged coup leader, Abu Muath al-Jazairi, killed, that the extremist group has put a bounty on his head, The Guardian adds.
The clash reportedly occurred on January 10 in a village near Hajin, in the Euphrates River valley, where between 1,000 and 1,500 militants are believed to be living in a 20 sq mile area, near Syria’s border with Iraq.
It’s a far cry from the 34,000 sq miles of territory from western Syria to eastern Iraq the terror group once controlled.
They got wind of it just in time. There was a clash and two people were killed.
Intelligence official, Syria
Regional intelligence officials told the publication the exchange of fire between the militants during the attempted coup was a planned move to wrest control from Baghdadi.
Jazairi is described as a veteran foreign fighter, and a senior member of the terror group.
An intelligence official said: “They got wind of it just in time. There was a clash and two people were killed.
“This was the foreign fighter element, some of his most trusted people.”
Hundreds of Isis fighters have surrendered and thousands of their relatives and other civilians fled eastern Syria in January.
Last November, The Sun Online joined battle-hardened Syrian soldiers as they targeted the warlord’s henchmen and family in eastern Syria – near where al-Baghdadi was thought to be hiding out.
That operation came weeks after the so-called ‘Invisible Sheikh’ ordered the execution of 320 of his followers for disloyalty from his secret bolthole, which was said to be close to the Iraqi border.
“In other battles, the jihadists had other places to run to, but in Hajin they have nowhere to go,” said Commander Havel Ronnie Walat of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been fighting ISIS since 2012.
“(And) here it is only the true believers left and they will fight to the death,” he chillingly added.
In addition to al-Baghdadi’s relatives many of those still in the area are thought to be the most dedicated of the foreign fighters.
“About two months ago we captured this British doctor. He was trying to get to escape to Turkey,” recalled Havel Ronnie.
“But here is significant numbers of other foreigners here too – not just British – but many of the top leadership, who are Saudi, Chechen or Iraqi.”
ISIS has lost virtually all the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.
Iraqi militias said yesterday that they have launched dozens of missiles targeting Islamic State militants holed up in a Syrian village across the border.
The state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces said they fired 50 missiles at targets in Baghouz village, in the last speck of territory held by the extremists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported shelling from the Iraqi side but had no details on casualties.
Hundreds of militants are now confined to a small area where they are surrounded by Syrian fighters backed by US-led airstrikes.
American president Donald Trump said the militants will have lost all their territory by next week.
He said the US will not relent in fighting remnants of the extremist organisation despite his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria over the objections of some of his top national security advisers.
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The Associated Press said today that The Guantanamo Bay detention centre would receive new prisoners for the first time in more than a decade.
This is one option being considered as America withdraws its forces from Syria and works to resolve the fate of hundreds of captured suspected Islamic State fighters, officials say.
US-backed Syrian fighters have custody of nearly 1,000 suspected ISIS fighters who the State Department said should be sent back to their home countries and prosecuted.
A Syrian soldier keeps a look over miles of wasteland near the Euphrates[/caption]
Commander Havel Ronnie Walat of the SDF, which has been fighting ISIS since 2012[/caption]
The devastated town is thought to be littered with deadly booby traps[/caption]
An American armoured vehicle patrols the former war zone[/caption]
The bullet-riddled train station in Hajin which was attacked by ISIS[/caption]
The ruptured remains of an ISIS car bomb spells out the daily dangers[/caption]