Lucky break? Attempted defection? A strange attempt at espionage gone wrong?The Lebanese army has detained both a wife and child of ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after both attempted to enter from Syria “in recent days,” according to sources within the military. Reuters calls this an intelligence operation:
The Lebanese army detained a wife and daughter of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as they crossed from Syria nine days ago, security officials said on Tuesday, in a setback to the group as it comes under increased military pressure.
The woman was identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi, by a Lebanese security official and a senior political source.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported she had been detained in coordination with “foreign intelligence”.
The arrest is a blow to Baghdadi and could be used as a bargaining chip against his group, which has captured many foreign, Iraqi and Syrian prisoners and declared a caliphate in territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq.
A senior Lebanese security official said Baghdadi’s wife had been travelling with one of their daughters, contradicting earlier reports that it was his son. DNA tests were conducted to verify it was Baghdadi’s child, the official said.
At the moment, no one seems to have a clue what they intended to do in Lebanon. CNN analyzes the development, while working on the older information that the child was a son rather than a daughter:
The Lebanese military has detained a wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a regional source with knowledge of the case told CNN.
News agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported, citing unidentified Lebanese security officials, said one of al-Baghdadi’s sons was also detained. And the detentions took place near Lebanon’s border with Syria when they tried to enter the country.
The detentions took place near Lebanon’s border with Syria, the news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported, citing unidentified Lebanese security officials. …
“It’s certainly a new dynamic because we’ve never seen anybody connected so close to al-Baghdadi being detained,” terrorism expert Sajjan M. Gohel told CNN.
But the reports raise a lot of questions about what the family members might have been doing in Lebanon.
“Is he estranged from them? Has he fallen out with them? Were they escaping from him?” said Gohel, who is the international security director at the Asia Pacific Foundation.
The Reuters report suggests something else, although it’s still unclear exactly what. The capture was coordinated between the intelligence services of Iraq and Lebanon, according to Reuters’ sources. That’s a convenient claim in that it paints both countries in a formidable light, but that doesn’t necessarily make it false or exaggerated either.
The LA Times reports that the woman — one of three wives of al-Baghdadi — was caught crossing at the border when she used a false ID:
The woman carried a false identification when arrested in recent days at an unspecified border crossing, As-Safir reported. She was taken to Ministry of Defense, where “investigations with her are ongoing,” the Lebanese newspaper said. Authorities had deliberately remained silent about “this great security achievement” until now, the newspaper reported.
She was reportedly detained with another person, alternately identified in press reports here as her son or daughter.
If she was defecting, why present the false ID to Lebanese authorities? If she wasn’t defecting, why was she trying to enter Lebanon, especially traveling alone? The internal forces in ISIS brutally enforce shari’a law, which doesn’t allow women to travel unaccompanied by a husband or close male relative. Having a wife of the “caliph” traveling by herself along with one of his daughters would be nearly as embarrassing as having her fall into the hands of his enemies, under those circumstances.
The next moves will be interesting, to say the least. Will ISIS acknowledge her capture, or ignore the story and hope it doesn’t gain traction within the territory it now controls? Will Lebanese authorities share information gleaned from her interrogation with other intel services, and the media? If this is on the level, it could be the propaganda coup of the year — but that’s still a sideshow to the brutal tyranny and dangerous threat of ISIS.