Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and self-proclaimed "caliph" of the caliphate or Islamic state that it has established in large parts of Iraq and Syria, was critically wounded in a US-led coalition airstrike according to sources.
The sources told the British Guardian that the strike took place in western Iraq's al-Baaj district of Nineveh, not far from the Syrian border, and timed it as having taken place on March 18.
An Iraqi source with connections to ISIS told the paper that Baghdadi was left with life-threatening wounds by the strike, but that he has made a slow recovery - however, the source revealed Baghdadi still has not taken back control of managing ISIS.
ISIS leaders held urgent meetings after the strike, making plans to name a new leader out of fears that Baghdadi would not recover. Since then, the source said that ISIS's military and Shura religious councils have taken a leading role in making decisions.
A Western diplomat confirmed the airstrike to the paper, saying it hit a three-car convoy between the villages of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan. In the strike, which targeted ISIS leaders, three men were thought to have been killed, although officials were unaware at the time that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.
Iraqi official Hisham al-Hashimi, an adviser in the fight against ISIS, told the Guardian, "yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him."
According to the sources the ISIS leader was laying low in al-Baaj, located around 200 miles west of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul in Iraq.
"He chose this area because he knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there," a source revealed. "From 2003 (the US military) barely had a presence there. It was the one part of Iraq that they hadn’t mapped out.”
Baghdadi previously escaped a near fatal strike last December 14 outside of Mosul, when a US airstrike hit a two-car convoy. His aide Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery was killed by a rocket strike on one of the cars, but Baghdadi was in the other car that was not struck.
The US-led coalition airstrikes have been yielding more results in recent months, taking out both Baghdadi's deputy Abu Muslim al-Turkmani as well as ISIS's Iraqi military operations chief in early December.