The woman reportedly captured by Lebanese forces last week while trying to enter Lebanon with fake papers from Syria, whose arrest sparked a media frenzy, is not the wife of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. She is, more likely, his ex-wife.
U.S. officials said initial reports of the capture appeared to be accurate but added the woman is thought to be "a former wife of al-Baghdadi,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told CNN (via ABC News). It is not known when the two were married, when they got divorced or how many wives Baghdadi currently has.
Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper was the first news outlet to report the arrest and said the woman in question was taken 10 days ago, with a child. Soon after, reports circulated her name is Saja al-Dulaimi and she is from an Iraqi family with close personal ties to ISIS. France 24 reported the woman arrested was with three children and in fact is “not Baghdadi’s wife.”
A woman going by the name al-Dulaimi was released from Syrian custody in March as part of a hostage exchange that involved several nuns held by militants, Reuters reported. Her father was allegedly an ISIS emir, or commander, in Syria who was killed in 2013 in clashes with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, al-Arabiya reported. A man named Mohammed Hamid al-Dulaimi is reportedly the head of communications and province coordination for ISIS.
Some speculated the woman arrested was neither al-Dulaimi nor Baghdadi’s wife but the wife of another militant commander, Anas Jarkas, who allegedly goes by the name Abu Ali Chechen. France 24 also reported on al-Dulaimi’s marriage to Jarkas and identified him as a member of al Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, and not ISIS.
“I don't know if she [al-Dulaimi] is the wife of [Baghdadi] or not, but the woman that was arrested [is] not the wife of Baghdadi,” Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqa, a spokesman for the anti-militant activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, told International Business Times earlier on Tuesday via Skype.
The arrest comes at a critical time for Lebanon, which is facing its own hostage crisis. At least 27 members of the Lebanese security forces are currently in the custody of ISIS and the Nusra Front. ISIS has already beheaded two hostages and the Nusra Front shot one.