The shadowy figure leading the world’s most notorious terrorist organization was a quiet and “normal family man,” said the Islamic State group leader’s ex-wife in an exclusive interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen. Saja al-Dulaimi, who said she thought her husband was just a mundane university lecturer, described a loveless and “shallow” marriage to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has a $10 million bounty on his head.
"He was a normal family man," al-Dulaimi said. "How he could become emir of the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world is a mystery."
She said she left her home with al-Baghdadi in Iraq years ago because he gave too many orders and she didn’t feel that she loved him. She complained that “you couldn’t have a discussion or hold a normal conversation with him.” She said living with him was “tough” because they lived in a small space with al-Baghdadi’s first wife and children from both marriages. She said she felt bad for his first wife, who was not consulted about her moving in. Al-Dulaimi has one daughter with al-Baghdadi, who oversees the militant group also known as ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Al-Dulaimi said the terrorist leader loved his children. During their relationship, he worked as a university lecturer.
"He didn't say much about his background. He was mysterious. He wasn't very talkative. We met in the evenings, over dinner. He spent his days at the university, where he taught religion and Sharia. He would sometimes disappear for several days. He said he'd been to visit his brother," she said.
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She said she did not quite realize how major a figure her ex-husband had become until she was arrested crossing into Lebanon in December 2014 with her new husband and fake identity cards. She last saw her ex-husband in 2009, when he asked her if she wanted to return. She said she knew him as Hisham Mohammad. The name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an alias for the leader, born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri.
"They showed me pictures of my ex-husband and asked me if I recognized him," she said. "It turns out I was married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a shock to find out — seven years later — that I'd been married to the most dangerous man in the world."
Al-Dulaimi was freed in a highly publicized prisoner swap with the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front group a year later. She said she wanted to move to the West and pave the way for a better life for her and her family. The interview with the Swedish newspaper occurred at a secret location near the Lebanese-Syrian border.
"Where is my guilt?" she said. "I was the one who left him... If I wanted to live with al-Baghdadi, I could have lived like a princess. I don't want money. I want to live in freedom."