Tal Afar (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State militants arrested a preacher in Nineveh who had questioned news about the death of the group’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
A local source in the province said an elite squad from IS, dubbed “The Black Battalion”, whose members dress in black Afghani costumes, invaded a mosque in Tal Afar and arrested a preacher who is also a member of the group.
According to the source, the preacher refuted news about Baghdadi’s demise, and also warned in his sermon of what he described as the appearance of “a new imposter who could split the mujahideen (fighters)”.
Baghdadi’s only open appearance was in June 2014, when he ascended the pulpit of the Grand Nuri Mosque in western Mosul’s Old City to proclaim an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. He disappeared later and never showed up again, with occasional reports making speculations about his survival and whereabouts.
Since Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, launched offensives to clear IS havens, the group has reportedly been hit with divisions and power disputes as Baghdadi’s death rumors grew.
Early July, a local source said a preacher with the group, nicknamed Abu Qutaiba, was burned to death in Tal Afar, shortly after his arrest over charges of “stirring sedition” through a Friday prayer sermon in which he inadvertently suggested Baghdadi’s possible death.