ISIS leader Baghdadi has reportedly abandoned the fight for Mosul to save his own life
The Iraqi native is said to have abandoned his diehard fanatics who have been battling Iraqi forces for their western Mosul stronghold.
But a US Pentagon official told reporters under the condition of anonymity that the Defence Department have been wary to characterise the ISIS leader as “on the run”.
He has proved to be an elusive target, rarely using communication that can be monitored and often moving locations multiple times in one 24-hour cycle, anonymous sources have claimed.
From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.
An Iraqi analyst told Reuters that Baghdadi may be hiding north of the Euphrates river amongst Sunni Arab tribes, Iraq’s desert region.
Latest chilling photographs released from Mosul Tue, March 7, 2017
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces push further into the Islamic State-held western half of Mosul, capturing a damaged bridge which could link up their units on either side of the Tigris river
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An Iraqi special forces soldier checks men for explosive belts as they cross from Islamic State controlled part of Mosul to Iraqi forces controlled part of Mosul
Hisham al-Hashimi, who has advised the Iraqi government said: "It's their historic region, they know the people there and the terrain; food, water and gasoline are easy to get, spies are easier to spot.”
US and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group's leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul confirm he has abandoned the city.
The intelligence sources point to a sharp drop in Daesh postings on social media as evidence that Baghdadi and his circle have become increasingly isolated.
Baghdadi himself has not released a recorded speech since early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he called on his followers to fight the "unbelievers" and "make their blood flow as rivers".
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Iraqi forces are currently leading the brutal battle for western Mosul
The US-backed Iraqi forces have now closed in on the area around Mosul's Great Mosque on the western bank of the Tigris, where Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate.
General Matthew Isler of the US Air Force said some of Islamic State's foreign fighters are trying to leave the city, but "the game is up".
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