IS fighters abandon Baghdadi's stronghold of Baaj in north-west Iraq

  • Iran-backed Shia fighters have taken control over the town of Baaj in north-west Iraq that has been a stronghold and home to IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi since 2014.

    Baaj has been a rebel town for a very long time and has been mostly controlled by local tribes who have been ideologically closer to Baghdadi’s vision of establishing an Islamic Caliphate across the region. They gave him sanctuary and support, with little regard to central authority in Baghdad.

    Shia militants, who were first to move into Baaj, were surprised to face no resistance from IS fighters, who by then had already abandoned Baaj. There was no sign of Baghdadi.

    With Baaj taken, the last stronghold for IS fighters remains the old city part of west Mosul and Bukamal. In Mosul, the last of remaining IS fighters have dug themselves in, retaining civilians as human shields. The final assault on this section is expected to begin shortly.