Terror leader's wife suspected captive
BEIRUT — Lebanese authorities detained a woman and young boy believed to be the wife and son of the reclusive Islamic State group leader and were questioning the woman and conducting DNA tests on the child, senior Lebanese officials said Tuesday.
If their identities are confirmed, Lebanon may use the pair as bargaining chips to win the release of soldiers and police taken hostage by the terrorists in cross-border attacks earlier this year.
The woman, who was identified as an Iraqi, and the child were taken into custody about 10 days ago while carrying fake ID cards, the officials said.
Very little is known about al-Baghdadi's personal life, including how many wives and children he has. Conservative interpretations of Islam allow men to marry up to four wives. The Islamic State group did not immediately comment on the detentions, but the faction's supporters on Twitter and militant websites cast doubt on the reports.
Adding to the confusion, the Lebanese army did not release an official statement regarding the pair.
A Lebanese military official identified the woman as Saja al-Dulaimi who was held by Syrian authorities and freed in a prisoner exchange with the Nusra Front, Syria's al-Qaida-linked branch, earlier this year. The official said the woman “confessed during interrogation” that she was al-Baghdadi's wife.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In March, the Nusra Front freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns in exchange for the release of dozens of female prisoners by the Syrian government. A woman named Saja al-Dulaimi was reportedly on the list of prisoners freed by Damascus.
A judicial official said the interrogation of the woman was being supervised by Lebanon's military prosecutor, Saqr Saqr, and that a DNA test was underway to confirm that the child is her son. Experts said it would be difficult to confirm whether the woman is indeed al-Baghdadi's wife.
It was unclear what would have brought the woman and child to Lebanon, where IS controls no territory and enjoys only small — although growing — support in some predominantly Sunni Muslim areas.
The detentions added to the mystery that continues to surround al-Baghdadi, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. He has only made one known public appearance — a sermon he delivered in July at a mosque in Mosul just days after IS declared him the head of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the territory the group controls in Syria and Iraq.
Last month, Iraqi officials claimed he was wounded in an airstrike. The United States has not confirmed those reports, and al-Baghdadi released a new audiotape days after he was purportedly hit.