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The wife of Islamic State (ISIS) leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been arrested, according to Lebanon authorities. The defense minister corroborated reports that al-Baghdadi’s wife and alleged son had been picked up. Col. Anis Khoury, military spokesman, added that the army is heading the investigation, but could not provide more information.
As-Safir, a Lebanese publication, broke the news, reporting that the pair was arrested almost a week and a half ago near the Syrian border crossing point as they were trying to enter Lebanon. Several foreign intelligence agencies, in conjunction with Lebanese authorities, coordinated the effort.
The pair was found with fraudulent identification, according to the Associated Press. The leader’s wife was being interrogated by law enforcement officials. The son was being given a DNA test to confirm his relation. While an official account has not been released, one official gave the woman’s name as Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi. Lebanese security officials have not confirmed that information.
While many news outlets are reporting that the minor detained with al-Dulaimi is al-Baghdadi’s son, Reuters is reporting that it was his daughter. Authorities have not confirmed that information, either. The wife’s importance as to her knowledge of ISIS activities has yet to be determined as well.
The fortuitous border arrest of the Islamic State leader’s wife came while Lebanese authorities are trying to broker a deal for a prisoner exchange with ISIS. Since August, the militant group has been holding hostage 20 Lebanese soldiers. The Islamic State has ordered Lebanon to release Islamist inmates being detained in Lebanon. On Monday, a faction of the Islamic State group, Nusra Front, warned that one of the Lebanese soldiers would be killed.
The arrest stands to give Lebanon leverage in the prisoner exchange negotiation. International security director of the Asia Pacific Foundation, Sajjan M. Gohel, reported to CNN that with the capture of al-Baghdadi’s wife, a new dynamic applies to the situation. Reportedly, no one so close to the leader has ever been detained. Speculation swirled as to why the wife and son were separated from the leader.
Le Monde, a French newspaper, penned al-Baghdadi as “the new Bin Laden.” Currently, a $10 million price on his head has been offered by the United States and still stands. Al-Baghdadi, former leader of the al Qaeda cell in Iraq, is based in Syria. Abu D’ua, another name for al-Baghdadi, has claimed credit for various heinous acts in Iraq against citizens and state law enforcement since 2011.
A video featuring a man purported to be al-Baghdadi surfaced in July and showed him speaking to a crowd in Mosul from a mosque balcony. He has not been seen publicly since the release of the video. The city is currently part of a region captured by the Islamic State and declared to be their caliphate.
The Islamic State has drawn the ire of the world community for releasing horrific videos of fighters beheading hostages and for capturing large swaths of territory claiming it to be part of the caliphate. Al-Baghdadi’s personal life has remained a mystery, however.
Several interpretations of the Islam culture allow for multiple wives, but little is known as to the number of wives and children the leader has. According to an official biography, he is only listed as being married. The mystery that shrouds the leader’s personal life allows him to stick out from other jihadist leaders.
His first wife, Suja al-Dulaimi, is supposedly an Iraqi citizen. Reports are that she was detained in Syria by authorities and then later released during another prisoner exchange this year. The Nusra Front released a group of Greek Orthodox nuns being held four months in exchange for dozens of female captives.
The militant group does not possess the control in Lebanon that they do in Iraq and Syria, but support has grown for the militants. The city of Tripoli, a predominately Sunni Muslim area, has supported the efforts of the group.
Abu Hanieh has said that the group’s ambiguity keeps people confused and off balance. That is one of the key differences between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. As reports of the Islamic State leader’s wife’s arrest hit the air, supporters of the militants denounced the reports. Reports that the self-proclaimed caliph was killed or injured in recent airstrikes were rebuffed via a personal audio recording last month, which rallied all followers to release “volcanoes of jihad.”
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Marines – Flickr License