A wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the slain leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), has been captured, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
Erdogan announced the capture during a ceremony at Ankara University without providing any further details on how, when or where she was seized.
Erdogan also criticized the United States (US) for making a “communications campaign” over the ISIS leader’s death.
“The US said Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel. They started a communication campaign about this. But I am announcing it here for the first time: We captured his wife and did not make a fuss like them,” said the president.
US President Donald Trump announced on October 26 that the fugitive ISIS leader had killed himself during a US special forces operation in northwestern Syria, just a few miles from the Turkish border.
Erdogan added that the Turkish forces also detained al-Baghdadi’s sister and brother-in-law in Syria.
On Tuesday, a Turkish senior officer told the Associated Press (AP) that Turkey had captured al-Baghdadi’s 65-year-old sister, Rasmiya Awad, together with her husband and daughter-in-law in the province of Aleppo, northern Syria, an area now under Turkish control.
Awad’s capture is valuable in terms of intelligence about ISIS, according to Turkish officials.
It was not clear from Erdogan’s remark which of al-Baghdadi’s wives had been arrested by Turkey.
Fahrettin Altun, the presidential communications director, vowed on Twitter that the arrests of al-Baghdadi’s family members were yet another example of the success of Turkey’s counter-terrorism operations.
“Anyone who doubts our determination about going after all terror groups should take another look at Turkish government’s record in pursuing terrorists, be it Daesh [ISIS], PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] or YPG [the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] among others,” Altun tweeted.
Ankara regards Syria’s YPG as an extension of the outlawed PKK, a separatist armed group inside Turkey.
Trump said last week that two women, who were believed to be al-Baghdadi’s other wives, had also been killed during the US raid in which the ISIS leader was killed.
Last week, the ISIS confirmed its leader’s death and also named a new “caliph”, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, to replace al-Baghdadi.
The ISIS leader came to the fore in 2014 when he declared a self-proclaimed “caliphate”. The group later took control of large parts of Syria and Iraq by carrying out multiple atrocities that resulted in thousands of deaths.
The US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which consists primarily of the YPG militia, defeated the territorial caliphate in Syria in March this year. Since then, the group has resorted to guerrilla attacks in the region.
However, analysts say the group still poses risk, with its affiliates active in some parts of the region and some other countries.