Clues suggest ISIS leader is still alive — and busy with a chilling new mission
His self-declared caliphate was in ruins when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi summoned some of his top aides to a meeting in eastern Syria last year. The Islamic State's capital in Iraq had already fallen, and its Syrian headquarters was under siege.
Yet the terrorist leader had something else on his mind: schoolchildren.
The gathering near the city of Deir al-Zour was called by Baghdadi personally to discuss rewriting the terrorist group's educational curriculum, according to an Islamic State official who was arrested in a joint operation by Turkish and Iraqi officials earlier this year. Despite the group's dire circumstances, Baghdadi wanted to examine a subject that had less to do with immediate survival than with preserving the organization's ideological core.
"Several top leaders were present, as well as the curricula committee, which I headed," the captured officer, known as Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, said in a videotaped statement aired on Iraqi television.
The meeting, said to have occurred in mid-2017, was the third convening of a committee that had been a pet project of the man at the top, having been "established by caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," the officer said.