Ankara (Reuters) – Turkey has captured a wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Wednesday, more than a week after the Islamic State leader killed himself during a raid by U.S. special forces in northern Syria.
“The United States said Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel. They started a communication campaign about this,” Erdogan said.
“But, I am announcing it here for the first time: We captured his wife and didn’t make a fuss like them. Similarly, we also captured his sister and brother in law in Syria,” he said in a speech at Ankara University. But he gave no details.
Earlier this week a senior Turkish official said Turkey had captured Baghdadi’s sister, her husband and daughter-in-law, and hoped to gain intelligence from them about Islamic State, although Ankara has not said what knowledge they may have had about the group’s operations.
On Wednesday, a senior Turkish official said that the operation in which Baghdadi’s wife was detained took place on June 2, 2018 when Turkish police captured a group of 11 Islamic State suspects in Turkey’s Hatay province.
He said one of the four women caught in the operation identified herself as someone else but was in fact Asma Fawzi Muhammad Al-Qubaysi – Baghdadi’s first wife.
“We discovered her real identity pretty quickly. At that point, she volunteered a lot of information about Baghdadi and the inner workings of ISIS,” the official said, adding that the information led to a series of arrests elsewhere.
He said a DNA test confirmed that another suspect was Baghdadi’s daughter, and the detainees were being held at a deportation centre in Turkey.
However, other reports suggest that Baghdadi lived near the Turkish border under the auspices of Turkey.
Baghdadi rose from obscurity to lead the ultra-hardline group and declare himself caliph of all Muslims, holding sway over huge areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014-2017 before Islamic State’s control was wrested away by a U.S.-led coalition.
World leaders have welcomed his death, but they and security experts warned that the group, also known as ISIS, which carried out atrocities against religious minorities and horrified most Muslims, remained a security threat in Syria and beyond.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said two of Baghdadi’s wives had also been killed at the site of last month’s raid.
The group said a successor to Baghdadi, identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, had been appointed. A senior U.S. official said last week that Washington was looking at the new leader to determine where he came from.