Senior-most ISIS female captive claims helping CIA in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hunt
Nisrine Assad Ibrahim claims she helped identify safe houses used by the fugitive terrorist leader and in one case even pinpointing his location in Mosul.
The senior-most Islamic State (ISIS) female operative in captivity in Iraq has claimed that she played a central role in the US-led coalition's hunt for the terrorist network's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, better known by her ISIS name of Umm Sayyaf, claims she helped identify safe houses used by the fugitive terrorist leader and in one case even pinpointing his location in Mosul, the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday from the Kurdish city of Erbil in Iraq.
The claims that she helped CIA and Kurdish intelligence build detailed portraits of Baghdadi's movements, hideouts and networks, emerged in Sayyaf's first interview since being captured in a Delta Force raid in Syria four years ago that killed her husband, the then ISIS oil minister.
"I told them where the house was. I knew he'd (Baghdadi) been there because it was one of the houses that was provided for him, and one of the places he liked the most," she recalled.
The 29-year-old is a highly controversial figure who has been accused of involvement in some of the terror group's most heinous crimes, including the enslavement of the captured US aid worker Kayla Mueller and several Yazidi women and girls, who were raped by senior ISIS leaders.
She was sentenced to death by a court in Erbil and spoke to the Guardian, partly through a translator, at a prison in the city. She was accompanied by a Kurdish intelligence officer who made no attempt to intervene in the interview, the newspaper said.
Leading international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has requested Sayyaf's transfer from Iraq to the US to face justice for her crimes. She told the UN Security Council in April that Sayyaf "locked them (the captives) in a room, instigated their beatings and put makeup on them to 'prepare them for rape'."
Sayyaf was the wife of Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunis, a close friend of Baghdadi's and veteran of the group who held one of its most important roles at the time of his death. As one of the organisation's most important wives, she had rare access to meetings and personal discussions and was present several times when Baghdadi recorded audio propaganda messages in the home she shared with her husband.
"He used to do that in our sitting room in Taji (a town in central Iraq). My husband was the (ISIS) media chief then, and Baghdadi would visit often, Sayyaf said in the interview.
Speaking about Baghdadi, she said: "He visited us often in Syria. Before we moved to Omar (oil field), we lived in a house in Shadadah (a nearby town).
And distancing herself from him, she added: Whatever he did, did not involve me," she said.
Sayyaf at first refused to cooperate with her captors and remained sullen and sometimes volatile in her cell in northern Iraq. But by early 2016, she had begun to reveal some of the organisation's most sensitive secrets, none more so than how Baghdadi moved around and operated.
For many hours Sayyaf pored over maps and photographs laid out on a table in front of her, alongside American men.
"They were very polite and wore civilian clothes. I showed them everything I knew," she recalls.
Sayyaf receives a monthly visit from her family, and has access to doctors and aid workers. However, despite her cooperation with authorities, she is unlikely to earn a change to her sentence.
"She comes from a very radical environment, and if she returned to them, she would become like them," an intelligence chief told the newspaper.