Turkey captured al-Baghdadi's relatives in Syria, official says

Published 05.11.2019 00:08
Updated 05.11.2019 14:17
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's daughter-in-law (L), sister (R) and her husband
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's daughter-in-law (L), sister (R) and her husband

A senior Turkish official said Turkey has captured the older sister of the slain leader of Daesh in northwestern Syria, calling the arrest an intelligence "gold mine."

Little is known about the sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Turkish official said that the 65-year-old known as Rasmiya Awad was captured in a raid Monday on a trailer container she was living in with her family near the northern Syrian town of Azaz in Aleppo province. The area is part of the region administered by Turkey following Operation Euphrates Shield launched against Daesh and PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists back in August 2016.

The official said the sister was with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children. The adults are being interrogated, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.

"This kind of thing is an intelligence gold mine. What she knows about Daesh can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys," the official said.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the captured members of al-Baghdadi's family will be kept in repatriation centers and the legal process will follow Turkish laws.

"The arrest of al-Baghdadi's sister is yet another example of the success of our counterterrorism operations," Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday.

"Much dark propaganda against Turkey has been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh," he wrote.

"Our strong counterterrorism cooperation with like-minded partners can never be questioned."

Altun also said some circles in the U.S. are "working hard" to make Washington's partnership with Ankara "unworkable."

"We hope a cool-headed approach that understands the true value of alliances will prevail in the end," he added.

An Iraqi national from Samarra, al-Baghdadi killed himself when cornered in a tunnel in a U.S. military operation in Idlib, officials announced on Oct. 27. Daesh, in an audio tape posted online on Thursday, confirmed that its leader had died and vowed revenge against the U.S.

Under his leadership, the terrorist group took control of large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria and carried out deadly attacks inside both countries and abroad.

Al-Baghdadi had been a top target for both the Trump and Obama administrations and had a $25 million bounty on his head.

Many Daesh members escaped through smuggling routes to northwestern Syria in the final days of the battle ahead of the group's territorial defeat earlier this year, while others have disappeared into the desert in Syria or Iraq.

The reclusive leader al-Baghdadi was known to be close to one of his brothers, known by his nom de guerre Abu Hamza. Al-Baghdadi's aide, a Saudi, was killed hours after the raid in a U.S. strike also in northwestern Syria.

Daesh said a successor to al-Baghdadi identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi had been appointed. A senior U.S. official last week said Washington was looking at the new leader to determine where he came from.

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