The Lebanese army detained a wife and daughter of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as they crossed from Syria nine days ago, security officials said on Tuesday, in a move seen as likely to put pressure on the Islamist chief.
The woman was identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi, by a Lebanese security official and a senior political source.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported she had been detained in coordination with “foreign intelligence”.
A Lebanese security source said the arrest was “a powerful card to apply pressure” in negotiations to secure the release of 27 members of the Lebanese security forces captured by Islamic terrorists — a view shared by other Lebanese officials who confirmed the arrest.
However, Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed any suggestion that Washington might also try to use similar tactics to free prisoners. “We do not engage in that type of negotiation. Period,” he told a news conference in Brussels.
A senior Lebanese security official said Baghdadi’s wife had been traveling with one of their daughters, contradicting earlier reports that it was his son. DNA tests were conducted to verify it was Baghdadi’s child, the official said.
They were detained in northern Lebanon after Baghdadi’s wife was found with a fake passport, officials said. Investigators were questioning her at the Lebanese defense ministry.
There was no immediate reaction from Islamic State sources, although some supporters rejected the report.
Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, said the arrest indicated that the American-led coalition seemed to have solid intelligence in Syria and Iraq.
“I talked to a few people who told me this was a coordinated arrest between American intelligence services and the Lebanese army,” he told Reuters.
“If I were Abu Bakr Baghdadi, I would be very anxious that they are getting very close,” he said. “This is a development … that is very alarming for ISIS, in particular the top leadership.”