Iraq's Ministry of the Interior says that a woman detained by Lebanese authorities is not married to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, despite widespread and conflicting reports to the contrary.
Security officials in Lebanon said Tuesday that its military had detained one of Baghdadi's wives and a child as they crossed from Syria into Lebanon late last month.
But in a statement Wednesday, the Iraqi interior ministry refuted claims the woman was Baghdadi's wife, and identified her as Saja Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi citizen and the sister of a man named Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, who is currently being detained and has been sentenced to death for his involvement in "explosions."
A Lebanese security source told Reuters they still believed the detained woman was Baghdadi's wife. "We are surprised by the position of the Iraqi Interior Ministry in light of the fact [Dulaimi] said that she was married to Ibrahim al-Samarai, who is also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," an unarmed official said.
A number of local sources, including the Arabic language daily As-Safir, reported that the woman and child were arrested around 10 days ago while attempting to cross into the country from Syria, and that there had been "coordination with foreign intelligence agencies."
Reports initially suggested that the child was a son, however a senior security official told Reuters it was actually a daughter and that DNA tests had confirmed Baghdadi was the father.
Details of Baghdadi's personal life are scarce. The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior statement said he had two other wives. Islamic law allows a man to have as many as four wives.
Baghdadi himself is Iraqi and, according to an online biography distributed on jihadi message boards, graduated from Baghdad's Islamic University with a BA, MA and PhD.
The Islamic State controls large areas of Lebanon's neighbors Syria and Iraq and has been increasingly successful in recruiting and gaining support in the country itself. In response, security services in Lebanon have cracked down on the group's presence in that country.
In August, the Islamic State, along with sometime-foe al Nusra, overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal and captured at least 35 Lebanese security forces members. The jihadists subsequently beheaded two of the hostages and, in exchange for the release of those remaining, demanded that Lebanese Shia militants Hezbollah withdraw from Syria — where they are fighting alongside government troops — and that Islamists being held by Lebanese authorities be released.
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