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Middle East

Is the woman detained in Lebanon Baghdadi’s wife?

© Al-Furqan Media, AFP|Screengrab from an Islamic State group video of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Text by Leela JACINTO , Wassim NASR

Latest update : 2014-12-03

Shortly after Lebanese security officials on Tuesday said the military had detained "a wife and child" of Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, there were conflicting reports about the identities of the detainees.

Earlier Tuesday, Lebanese security officials said a wife and child of the reclusive jihadist leader were detained around 10 days ago while they were attempting to cross the border from Syria into Lebanon.

According to jihadists and journalists contacted by FRANCE 24, the woman detained at the Syria-Lebanon border is Saja al-Dulaimi, the wife of Anas Jarkas, a senior leader (or emir) of the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

Al-Dulaimi first emerged under the media spotlight earlier this year, following a prisoner swap between the Syrian regime and the Nusra Front.

“A woman is currently in detention,” after she was arrested 10 days ago by the Lebanese military intelligence service while traveling “near [the Sunni-dominated Syrian border town] of Arsal,” a source told FRANCE 24. But a number of sources have also told FRANCE 24 that al-Dulaimi is not Baghdadi’s wife.

According to Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which broke the story, Lebanese authorities detained the woman as she was traveling with a fake passport. The arrest was conducted in coordination with a “foreign intelligence service,” according to As-Safir.

Initial reports said the woman, identified as Baghdadi’s wife, was arrested along with his son. But Lebanese security officials later revealed that they had detained Baghdadi’s daughter, contradicting earlier reports.

FRANCE 24 has learned that the woman was arrested along with three children. A security source who had access to the minutes of the detained woman’s interrogation also said she was not Baghdadi’s wife and described her as “very defiant” under questioning.

DNA tests underway, but what do they say?

Lebanese judicial officials have told reporters that DNA tests were underway to confirm if any of the detained children are Baghdadi’s offspring. Baghdadi was a prisoner at the US-run Camp Bucca facility in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.

According to some reports, Baghdadi has a daughter. Of the three children arrested at the Syria-Lebanese border last month, FRANCE 24 has learned that only the girl is undergoing DNA tests to establish if she is Baghdadi’s child.

Lebanese security sources have been providing contradictory reports about whether the DNA tests have been positive or negative. The doubts surrounding the latest reports of the arrest of Baghdadi’s wife have been further fueled by questions over why a militant Sunni leader controlling territories in Iraq and Syria would send his wife and child to Lebanon, a predominantly Shiite country where the Shiite group Hezbollah holds extensive power.

Reporting from the Lebanese capital of Beirut, FRANCE 24’s Adam Pletts advised caution over reports of the alleged arrest of Baghdadi’s wife and child. “We should be extremely cautious about these reports because there’s been no confirmation from the Lebanese government,” said Pletts, noting that the details of the detainees have been “murky” and often contradictory.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the arrested woman was not Baghdadi’s wife , but the sister of a man convicted of bombings in southern Iraq.

An unnamed IS group fighter in Syria interviewed by Reuters also denied reports that she had been detained. "I have checked with our leaders and they said it was false news," the militant told Reuters.

Freed in exchange for release of Greek nuns

Details surrounding al-Dulaimi have been sketchy. While some reports have identified her as an Iraqi national, others claim she’s a Syrian citizen.

Al-Dulaimi’s marriage to Nusra Front commander Anas Jarkas is believed to be her second marriage. Her first husband, an Iraqi fighter with the Palestinian militant group Fateh al-Islam, is believed to have been killed in action, according to media reports.

Al-Dulaimi first came under the media spotlight in July, following reports that she was one of the prisoners freed by the Syrian government in exchange for the release of a group of Greek orthodox nuns captured by the Nusra Front in the historic Syrian Christian village of Maaloula.

According to uncorroborated local media reports, a Nusra Front militant revealed that Baghdadi’s wife was among the prisoners released by the Syrian government in exchange for the captured nuns.

The report led to speculation that al-Dulaimi was “one of Baghdadi’s wives”. Under some interpretations of Islam, a man can marry up to four wives.

Some media reports have quoted Iraqi tribal sources as saying Baghdadi has three wives, two Iraqis and one Syrian.

Mystery surrounds Baghdadi’s private life

A reclusive figure who rarely makes public appearances, Baghdadi has revealed very little about his personal life and his whereabouts.

The self-proclaimed “caliph” of the so-called Islamic State (or “caliphate”) that includes swathes of Syria and Iraq, Baghdadi is believed to have been the target of US airstrikes near Mosul in early November.

But on November 13, the jihadist group released a purported audio taped message of Baghdadi, refuting reports that the militant leader had been killed in the US strike.

Date created : 2014-12-02


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