Washington said earlier this month it would leave about 400 US troops split between two different regions of Syria [File: Rodi Said/Reuters]
CAIRO – 27 April 2019: "Islamic State (IS) leaders are hiding in different countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of them have fled to Libya and also European countries. Those who stayed in Syria have been eliminated. Only sleeper cells remain there," an informed Russian source told Interfax, an independent major news agency in Russia.
The source, however, declined to suggest where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding now and whether he is still alive, adding that "given the money the IS leaders have, they can change both their appearance and IDs and can hide in different countries."
Furthermore, however, a recent report on military strikes released by the US-led Coalition against IS provides clear evidence of the re-emergence of the terrorist organization in Iraq, even as it is defeated, at least temporarily, in Syria.
An AP report in March cited Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition fighting IS, that al-Baghdadi was likely to be still at large even though the group had recently lost its last territories in Syria and Iraq.
Igor Kostyukov, first deputy head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff, told Interfax in April 2018 that al-Baghdadi is most likely hiding in Iraq.
Al-Baghdadi, 47, born in Samarra, Iraq, is the world's most wanted man, with a $25 million bounty on his head.
Repeated reports about his death published over the past few years have been denied, and his current location remains unknown.
Al-Baghdadi last appeared in public in June 2014, when he delivered a sermon at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Iraq's Mosul, calling on Muslims around the world to pledge allegiance to the "caliphate".
None of the subsequent reports alleging his death has been confirmed.
An audio recording the voice on which was confirmed as that of al-Baghdadi was made in August 2018 - the last evidence that the IS leader is still alive and is not in captivity.
“IS is not in disarray; it’s not ‘defeated,’” Laith Alkhouri, a senior director at Flashpoint, which assesses the global terrorist threat, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “It’s not a membership-based organization. It’s skilled at reorganizing and modifying its strategy to fit the evolving security landscape around the world.”