Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country has captured one of the four wives of the slain leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, just days after it captured the elder sister, Rasmiya Awad.
Erdogan made the announcement while delivering a speech in the capital of Ankara, in which he also criticised the United States for making a fuss over the killing of Baghdadi.
“The United States said Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel. They started a communication campaign about this,” Erdogan said Wednesday. “But, I am announcing it here for the first time: We captured his wife and didn’t make a fuss like them. Similarly, we also captured his sister and brother-in-law in Syria.”
Erdogan gave no other details. He did not say when or how the woman was captured or identify her by name.
The IS leader blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. special forces on his heavily fortified safe house in the Syrian province of Idlib.
Erdogan’s announcement comes just days after Turkish forces captured al-Baghdadi’s elder sister, identified as Rasmiya Awad, in the town of Azaz, in Aleppo province in northwestern Syria.
The area is part of the region administered by Turkey after it carried out military incursions to chase away IS militants and Kurdish fighters, starting in 2016. Allied Syrian groups manage the area known as the Euphrates Shield zone.
Awad was with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children when she was detained. A Turkish official said the 65-year-old sister is suspected of being affiliated with the extremist group and called her capture an intelligence “gold mine.” Authorities had posted a picture of the sister.
It was not immediately clear if Awad’s capture led to intelligence that allowed for the detention of the wife.
One of al-Baghdadi’s wives is an Iraqi known by the name of Nour, the daughter of one of his aides, Abu Abdullah al-Zubaie. She was identified by name by al-Baghdadi’s brother-in-law in a recent interview with al-Arabiya TV. The brother-in-law, Mohamad Ali Sajit, who is in Iraqi custody, said al-Baghdadi had four wives when he last met him, sometime last summer.
Also, one of al-Baghdadi’s ex-wives was arrested in Lebanon in 2014, and was freed a year later in a prisoner swap with al-Qaida. The Iraqi ex-wife, Saja al-Dulaimi, had fled from al-Baghdadi in 2009 while pregnant with his daughter. At one point, al-Baghdadi was also believed to have married to a German teenager in 2015 but she was reported to have fled a year later.
The raid that killed al-Baghdadi was a major blow to his extremist group, which has lost territories it held in Syria and Iraq in a series of military defeats by the U.S-led coalition and Syrian and Iraqi allies.
Al-Baghdadi’s aide, a Saudi, was killed hours after the raid, also in northwestern Syria, in a U.S. strike. The group named a successor to al-Baghdadi days later, but little is known about him or how the group’s structure has been affected by the successive blows.
Up and until his death, al-Baghdadi had moved from place to place in eastern Syria amid a tightening U.S.-led campaign against his group as IS-held territory fell bit by bit.
He ended up in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, an area controlled by a rival, al-Qaida-linked militant group. It was not clear if any of his wives were with him at the time of the raid, during which two of his children were killed.