After entering Syria to allegedly fight ISIS, Britain’s Royal Air Force is now in Libya on a mission to “capture or kill” the elusive leader of the terrorist group who has apparently fled to the North African country.
According to a report by The Daily Express, RAF fighter jets were searching for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Libya, where he is thought to be hiding after being purged from territories controlled by ISIS in Syria.
The report came shortly after Baghdadi appeared in a video – the first in five years – in which he said the battle for Islam would be long.
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Press TV reports: The report said British fighter jets, along with aircraft operated by Italian and US militaries, were carrying out round-the-clock sorties in search of the ABB, the code name being used to identify Baghdadi as a target. It said anyone killing or capturing the Daesh leader would receive $25million (£19million) as a bounty on his head.
The RAF jets are being scrambled from Waddington in Lincolnshire, in eastern England, to collate signals and intelligence on individuals and groups who might support the 48-year-old Daesh leader.
It is not clear how a coalition of Western military forces has decided to launch the search for Daesh leader in Libya, an oil-rich country beset by years of violence which started after a popular uprising and the NATO military alliance’s intervention in 2011 to topple former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
British authorities believed there are some “reliable” intelligence from within Libya proving that Baghdadi had been in the country after escaping Baghouz in Syria, where he was subject to a plot from people in his inner circle to kill him.
“It is reliable intel, but it needs to be verified,” said a military source, adding, “The air component operation is delivering high-grade intelligence and we can map names and groups to people we known that have been or are part of ABB’s inner circle.”
However, Daily Express said similar operations were ongoing in neighboring African countries were militant groups with close affiliation to Daesh could have sheltered Baghdadi.
A recent video of Baghdadi showed him praising his fighters and their battle against the “apostates” in various parts of the world. He has also praised attacks on churches in Sri Lanka last month which killed over 250 people.
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since Gaddafi’s fall in 2011. His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.
British military forces had been previously spotted fighting alongside militants waging war against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.