Skip to main content

Turkey says it has captured sister of dead Islamic State leader in Syria

Turkish official says Ankara hopes to gather trove of intelligence from al-Baghdadi's sibling regarding group's activities
Rasmiya Awad is seen in an unknown location in an undated picture provided by Turkish security officials (Reuters)

Turkey captured the sister of dead Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Azaz, a senior Turkish official has said, and is interrogating her husband and daughter-in-law, who were also detained.

Rasmiya Awad, 65, was apprehended in a raid near Azaz, the official said, referring to a Turkish-controlled Syrian town near the border. When captured, she was also accompanied by five children.

"We hope to gather a trove of intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of ISIS," the official told the Reuters news agency, using an alternative name for IS.

Little independent information is available on Baghdadi's sister and Reuters was not immediately able to verify if the captured individual was indeed her.

According to the United States, Baghdadi killed himself last month when cornered in a tunnel during a raid by US special forces in northwestern Syria. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


In an audio tape posted online on Thursday, IS confirmed that its leader had died and vowed revenge against the US.

'Dark propaganda against Turkey'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications director said the woman's capture was evidence of Turkey's determination to fight Islamic State.

"The arrest of al-Baghdadi's sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations," Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday.

"Much dark propaganda against Turkey has been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh," he wrote, using another name for IS.

"Our strong counter-terrorism cooperation with like-minded partners can never be questioned."

Baghdadi rose from obscurity to lead the group and declare himself "caliph" of all Muslims, holding sway over huge areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2017 before IS's control was wrested away by US-led coalition forces, including Iraqis and Syrian Kurds.

IS said a successor to Baghdadi, identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, had been appointed. 

A senior US official last week said Washington was looking at the new leader to determine where he came from.

World leaders welcomed Baghdadi's death, but they and security experts warned that the group, which carried out atrocities against religious minorities, remained a security threat in Syria and beyond.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.