ISIL chief is alive and hiding in Syria, says Iraqi official

A top Iraqi official says the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group's leader Ibrahim al-Samarrai, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is "alive" and is being treated in a field hospital in Syria, less than a year after sources announced the death of the notorious ringleader.

It quoted USA officials who said Baghadi had to relinquish command of ISIS for up to five months because of the injuries he sustained in the missile attack. The assessment is based on reports from Islamic State detainees and refugees in Northern Syria that emerged months after the airstrike.

Baghdadi is hiding out in the desert on the Syrian side of the Syria-Iraq border northeast of Deir Ezzor province, said Abu Ali al-Basri, director general of Iraq's intelligence and counter-terrorism office at the ministry of interior.

In June 2016, Turkish media reported that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a USA airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, but this was never confirmed.

Baghdadi, who suffers from diabetes, is thought to have been left unable to walk unassisted from injuries incurred from a raid in 2015 which were exasperated by another last May. The government-run Al-Sabah daily quoted Abu Ali al-Basri, Iraq's intelligence and counterterrorism department chief, as saying that Baghdadi had sustained serious wounds on his legs.

In 2014, a video was released showing al-Baghdadi preaching during Friday prayer at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq, which was then held by ISIS.

In December that year, The Pentagon said it believed that the ISIS chief was alive, despite repeated efforts by the USA -led coalition.

He did not swear allegiance to the leader of the al-Qaeda franchise, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had urged IS to focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nusra.

Reports suggest he was radicalised during the four years he was held at Camp Bucca, a USA prison in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.

Vanessa Coleman