Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has privately revealed he fears he will be killed in Mosul and has appointed his first deputy to take over when he dies.
A source, who insisted on anonymity, said the terror group’s media networks had been circulating the ‘unprecedented’ decision.
The identity of the potential future leader will be kept under wraps amid fears it could cause revolts within ISIS.
Not even the terror group’s senior leaders were allowed to discuss al-Baghdadi’s successor, the source told Iraqi News.
The announcement comes as coalition forces tighten their grip on Mosul as Iraqi troops have reclaimed chunks of the city.
Flames and smoke were seen rising from a burning oil facility in the town of Qayyarah, near Mosul.
Oil wells in and around the town were torched by ISIS extremists as the Iraqi military began an offensive to liberated the town.
For two months the residents of the town have lived under an almost constant smoke cloud, the only respite coming when the wind changes.
Those in the town, despite having been freed from ISIS occupation, now live with little power, a water supply tainted with oil that only comes on periodically and an oppressive cloud of smoke that coats everything with thick soot.
Many complain of respiratory problems, but the long term health implications for the men, women and children living in the town have yet to be seen as al-Baghdadi’s ISIS and coalition forces continue to battle for the land.
The mysterious leader of Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been reported to have been killed or seriously injured at least 10 times in the last year and a half.
His evasiveness led to the US Government sticking a $10million bounty on his head for anything that would lead to his capture or death.
It turned up nothing, though it is understood that after 13 years as an active terrorist he is cornered in Mosul as the battle continues to liberate the city.
Unlike other leaders of huge terror groups, such as Osama Bin Laden, ISIS head honcho prefers to stay under the radar.
He has only appeared in one video – in Mosul last year – and there are only two authenticated photographs of him.
This ability to go undetected coupled with his alleged likening for wearing masks when addressing his commanders has earned him the nickname The Invisible Sheikh.
There is good reason for his incognito way of life.
In 2006, one of his predecessors and leader of vicious jihadist group in Iraq Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was tracked down and was killed in a US bombing raid in 2006.
Zarqawi, like Al-Qaeda’s Bin Laden, was a showman, and it caught up with him.
Baghdadi is credited with transforming the breakaway Al-Qaeda group turning it into the independent ISIS group that is arguably the most powerful and wealthiest jihadist organisation in the world.
He started life as Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim and is thought to have been born in Samarra, north of Baghdad, in 1971.
Though there is no official confirmation, he is understood to have gained a doctorate from a university in Baghdad having read Islamic studies.
His classmates described him as a shy, unimpressive religious scholar and a man who abstained from violence.
But by 2003, he was a fully-fledged jihadist, living in a small room attached to mosque.
He had called this his home for a decade.
Reports suggest he was a cleric in a mosque in the city around the time of the US-led invasion that year.
Some believe he was already a militant jihadist during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Others believe he was radicalised during the four years he was held at Camp Bucca, a US facility in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.
His first involvement in an organised terror group came when he founded the Jamaat Jaysh Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaah (JJASJ) with his friends in 2003.
Here he was given his first role of responsibility – as head of the sharia committee.
By 2006, his group had joined the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, which was then an Al-Qaeda branch.
The terror group was renamed Islamic State in Iraq the same year, and Baghdadi served again on the sharia committee.
By this time, it is thought he was being mentored as a potential member of the jihadist organisation’s top brass.
His time came in 2010 when he emerged as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
It was the group that became Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in the same year and rose to prominence during the attempted merger with al-Nusra Front in Syria.
ISIS as we know it was born and Baghdadi’s bloody reign of terror was underway.
Between March and April 2011, he had allegedly masterminded 23 attacks south of Baghdad.
He had a penchant for suicide bombings and it took less than a year for the US to officially designate Baghdadi as a terrorist, offering a $10million reward for information leading to his capture or death.
The White House issued a statement with the reward, saying: ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Du’a, is the senior leader of the terrorist organisation, the Islamic State.
‘Reflecting its greater regional ambitions, al-Qaeda in Iraq changed its name in 2013 to ISIS and stepped up its attacks across Syria and Iraq.
‘ISIS attacks are calculated, coordinated, and part of a strategic campaign. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in charge of overseeing all operations and is currently based in Syria.
‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has taken personal credit for a series of terrorist attacks in Iraq since 2011 and claimed credit for the June 2013 operations against the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, the March 2013 suicide bombing assault on the Ministry of Justice, among other attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi citizens going about their daily lives.’
Under Baghdadi’s leadership ISIS thugs have shocked the world with their sadistic and savage murder of thousands of people in the Middle East and Europe.
Away from the battleground, there are conflicting reports of his private life.
Some believe him to have three wives, some say he has children and last year he was reported to have married a German teenager.
A woman claiming to be his ex-wife Saja al-Dulaimi told how she met and married who she thought was a university lecturer, only to discover seven years later he was ‘the most dangerous man in the world’.
Lifting the lid on what she described as their ‘shallow’ and unhappy marriage, Dulaimi told how Baghdadi had a ‘mysterious personality’ and she dared not have discussions with him.
‘I didn’t love him,’ she told Swedish newspaper Expressen.
‘He was an enigmatic person. You couldn’t have a discussion or hold a normal conversation with him … He just asked about things and told me to fetch things. He gave orders, nothing more.’
Al-Dulaimi told how al-Baghdadi would disappear for days at a time but she had no suspicions of his involvement in the Syrian resistance while they were together.
‘He was a normal family man,’ she added. ‘How he could become emir of the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world is a mystery.’
She said that after her first husband died in an Iraqi resistance group her uncle approached her father about a potential new husband looking for a widow.
Al-Dulaimi then moved her and her young twin boys in with al-Baghdadi and his first wife and her children, an arrangement she described as ‘tough’ in such a small space.
Her children looked at the ISIS leader as their ‘idol’, she said, but al-Dulaimi told how she fled from him after just a few months while pregnant with a daughter, Hagar.
She claims the last time she spoke to her ex-husband was in 2009 when he asked her to come back and she refused.