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Al-Araby al-Jadeed/Agencies

Lebanon 'detains' IS leader Baghdadi's wife

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared 'caliph' by IS in June

Date of publication: 2 December, 2014

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Security and military sources have said that the wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, was detained in Lebanon 10 days ago, along with their son.
Lebanese security officials said on Tuesday that they had detained a wife and son of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"Military intelligence detained one of his wives, who was travelling with their child, near Arsal 10 days ago," a security source said. The source added that the news had been kept quiet while security arrangements were being arranged.

Baghdadi's wife has been identified as Sagia Dulaimi, a Syrian national who was released in a prisoner exchange earlier in the year between the Syrian government and rebels in Maaloula.  
     There are two different hostage crises because Jabhet al-Nusreh have half of the hostages and IS have the others.
- Ahmad Mousali, American University of Beirut 

Arsal is a Lebanese town near the border with Syria that has served as a bastion of the Syrian opposition through which militants and weapons could travel and refugees could find sanctuary.

An understanding held that none of the parties would take the battle into the town due to the large number of civilians and refugees living there.

A game changer

Jubhet al Nusreh-allied opposition forces have suffered a number of setbacks along the border, including having one of their leaders detained by Lebanese security forces.

They raided the town in early August, taking control of the police station and kidnapping 16 police officers.

Several days of fighting and bartering ensued that ended with 18 military personnel, 60 militants and 42 civilians dead.

Around 30 security personnel were taken hostage and held by either Jubhet al Nusreh or the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS). 

Two have since been beheaded.

The arrest of Baghdadi's wife was confirmed by a military source, who said that the woman was a Syrian national, and that the child was around eight years old.

The arrest was first reported by the Lebanese daily as-Safir, who said that "foreign intelligence agencies" were involved. 

The wife and child are now said to be in the defence ministry headquarters in Yarze.

The detention could have an impact on negotiations over the remaining hostages, which have yet to bear much fruit.

"There are, in effect, two different hostage crises now, because Jabhet al-Nusreh have around half of the hostages and Daesh (a derogatory Arabic term for IS) have the others," said Ahmad Mousali, professor of political science, American University of Beirut. 

Dual crisis

The two militias share a similar hardline ideology but have fought each other on the Syrian battlefield and have different strategies and objectives in the conflict.

The Lebanese government has reached out to Turkey and Qatar to help mediate with the two groups but there has been little movement.

"Turkey has been accused of being close to and supporting IS and likewise the same accusations have been made with regards to Qatar and Jabhet al Nusreh. Both countries are trying to dispell those rumours so don't want to appear too close in these negotiations," said Mousali. 

Earlier in the week, General Security head of staff Major General Abbas Ibrahim was placed in charge of negotiations. 

The decision to negotiate directly is due to the procrastination of the Qatari mediator, Ahmed al-Khatib, Lebanon's prime minister said in remarks published on Monday.

The following day, the prime minister urged 
the Qatari emir to revive his country's mediation in the negotiations and "end the suffering of the families", according to the state-run National News Agency.

The discussions over the hostage release have revolved around a prisoner-swap deal with the militants demanding the release of five Islamist inmates detained in Lebanon and 50 female prisoners in Syria in return for each of the 26 captives they hold.

"Islamic State don't have a significant foothold in Lebanon like Jubhet al-Nusreh do and they really want the release of these Islamist detainees as this will help them reactivate their cells in the country," explained Mario Abou Zeid, research analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Baghadi was declared the "caliph" of IS' self-declared Islamic "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq in a message delivered at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which fell in June. 

Baghdadi is believed to have been imprisoned by the US in Iraq in the years following the removal of Saddam Hussein, and was placed on the US "terrorism" watchlist in October 2011. There is a $10 million bounty for his capture. 

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