The Iraqi Army has entered Mosul for the first time in over two years at the start of a battle which is likely to end in a decisive defeat for Isis. The significance of the fight for Mosul will be all the greater for Isis because its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is believed to be still inside the city, a senior Kurdish official has told The Independent.
Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, said in an exclusive interview that his government had information from multiple sources that “Baghdadi is there and, if he is killed, it will mean the collapse of the whole [Isis] system.”
Isis would have to choose a new caliph in the middle of a battle, but no successor would have the authority and prestige of Baghdadi, the leader who surprised the world by establishing the caliphate after capturing Mosul in June 2014.
Baghdadi has kept himself concealed for the last eight or nine months according to Mr Hussein, who added that the caliph had become very dependent on Isis commanders from Mosul and Tal Afar, a city just to the west of Mosul.
Other senior and better known figures in Isis, particularly those from Syria and other countries, have been killed since their initial triumphs in the summer of 2014 when they took over much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
The presence of Baghdadi in Mosul may complicate and prolong the battle for Mosul as his surviving adherents fight to the death to defend him. Mr Hussein said that “it is obvious that they will lose, but not how long this will take to happen.”
He said that Kurdish Peshmerga forces had been impressed by the extraordinary number of tunnels that Isis had dug in order to provide hiding places in the villages around Mosul.
Read more at The Independent.