Hawija (IraqiNews.com) A senior Islamic State leader in Kirkuk’s Hawija has declared himself a new supreme leader, adding to the state of chaos within the group’s ranks that followed reports of the death of the group’s founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Abu Haitham al-Obaidi, deputy to the (Islamic State’s) mayor of Hawija, dissented from the group and named himself a new Caliph after Baghdadi’s death reports were confirmed,” said Jabbar al-Maamouri, a leader at the Popular Mobilization Forces, in statements to Alsumaria News.
He explained that Obaidi is a senior military leader, and had withdrew with tens of his loyalists to the western side of Hawija, where he entrenched preparing for a “decisive” confrontation with his opponents.
“Hawija is bracing for a bloody infighting among IS members, the most violent since the group took over Hawija in June 2014,” said Maamouri.
A local source told Alsumaria News earlier that IS’s broadcast service in Hawija mourned Baghdadi and declared plans to name a successor.
Alsumaria News quoted a local source in Tal Afar Tuesday saying that IS made a brief statement in which it confirmed Baghdadi’s death . It said that infighting among Baghdadi’s loyalists and opponents broke out, prompting the group to carry out wide-scale arrests and to impose a curfew at most of the town.
No official Iraqi authority confirmed the reported statement.
Since Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, launched a major offensive in October to retake Mosul, IS’s largest bastion in Iraq, clashing speculations around Baghdadi’s survival were plentuous. Russia said it was 100% sure Baghdadi was killed in a strike in Syria last month, but its declaration was met with skepticism from the United States and other countries.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over Islamic State members in Mosul, saying the recapture of the city was an end of the self-styled “caliphate” declared by Baghdadi in 2014.