ANKARA – Turkish forces have captured Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sister in a raid in northern Syria, an official said on Tuesday.
The 65-year-old woman, named as Rasmiya Awad, was detained alongside several family members near the Syrian town of Azaz, which is controlled by Turkish-backed forces in the region.
Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man as the head of the Islamic State terror organization, killed himself during a United States special forces raid on a compound in the Syrian province of Idlib, not far from the Syrian border, last month.
“The arrest of Baghdadi’s sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations,” Fahrettin Altun, Communications Director of the Turkish Presidency, said in a tweet early Tuesday. “Turkey’s struggle against terror, independent of its ideology and roots, is ongoing with all its strength.”
Five children, her husband and daughter-in-law were also detained and will be interrogated, according to reports.
The Daily Hurriyet newspaper cited a Turkish security official saying: “We hope to gather a trove of intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of ISIL.”
In early October, Turkish forces launched an offensive into northern Syria in a bid to clear Kurdish militias from a 30-kilometer buffer zone along its border stretching from the Euphrates River in the west to the Iraqi border in the east.
The Kurdish militias, dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), had been a key US ally in the battle against the IS in north and northeast Syria.
Turkish authorities, however, consider them to be a terror organization intrinsically linked to the PKK guerrillas in southeast Turkey.
The offensive slowed after the Kurds made a deal with Damascus and Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s main international backer, agreed to coordinate with Turkey.
US special forces staged a nighttime raid to capture Baghdadi on October 26. The IS leader detonated a suicide belt when he was cornered by military canines at the end of a tunnel, killing three children he brought with him, according to President Donald Trump’s account of events.
Kurdish leadership in the region said they had helped gathered intelligence for the raid.