Turkish forces in northern Syria have detained a sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group who was killed in a US raid, a senior Turkish official said Tuesday. “Turkey has captured Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sister” in a raid near the town of Azaz, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP. He named the woman as Rasmiya Awad, and said she was born in 1954. The woman was accompanied by her husband, her daughter-in-law and five children. “The three adults are being interrogated at this time”, the official said.
He added that the arrest could be “an intelligence gold mine. “What she knows about ISIS can significantly expand our understanding of the group”, help us catch more members and “help Turkey to better protect itself and the rest of Europe from terrorists”, he said, using another acronym for IS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the arrests.
“Turkish forces arrested the sister of Baghdadi last night in a camp in the suburbs of the city of Azaz”, said the head of the organisation, Rami Abdel Rahman. “They arrested her, her husband, her daughter-in law, and her five grandchildren.” He said they also detained four other Iraqis, but it was not immediately clear if they were linked to IS or not. The town of Azaz is located in a region of northwestern Syria that has been under Turkish control since an offensive that it staged in 2016.
US President Donald Trump announced on October 27 the death of Baghdadi in a US special forces raid in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, carried out in coordination with Kurdish militants. Baghdadi had led IS since 2014 and was the world’s most wanted man. The next day Turkey said that its intelligence services and military had had “intense” contact with their US counterparts on the night of the operation.
Long suspected of allowing the jihadists to cross its border to join Syria after the start of the conflict that has torn the country since 2011, Turkey, hit by several attacks committed by the IS, joined the anti-jihadist coalition in 2015. But Ankara has been accused in recent weeks of weakening the fight against dispersed IS elements by launching an offensive on October 9 against the YPG Kurdish militia that had been spearheading the fight against the jihadist organisation.