ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reportedly alive and has been on the move after months of hiding, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday. On December 16, the U.S. increased the reward on Baghdadi from $10 to $25 million for any information that could lead to his capture. The high-priced bounty on his head, paired with an increased focus on liberating the city of Mosul from ISIS, has put tremendous pressure on all ISIS leaders, including Baghdadi.
Many U.S. officials believe that Baghdadi has been residing in the Syrian town of Raqqa since his disappearance. The U.S. official that confirmed the sighting with CNN claimed that he had access to the most recent intelligence reports. U.S. military officials also stated that they are getting a more complete picture of ISIS leadership via these intelligence reports as American-led Iraqi troops recapture parts of Mosul.
Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky stated in a Pentagon news briefing earlier this year:
“As we go to Mosul — they’ve been there two years, It’s their — their — you know, crown jewel of Iraq. Clearly, there’s going to be intelligence that will be able to be exploited once the — Daesh [ISIS] is defeated there, just as there’s been intelligence opportunities on the way up there.”
Coalition Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend also confirmed with reporters that Baghdadi is feeling the pressure. He said:
“And we see that in our intelligence reporting that it’s affecting his life. And Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi probably wishes he had more direct command and control over his formation than he does right now.”
Military officials refused to release any details on where or when Baghdadi was sighted. However, they did state that the latest information indicates that his is alive, despite many sources previously reporting that Baghdadi had been killed or injured.