Two huge pieces of news emerged from Iraq midway through last week, as the mission to free the surrounding areas of Mosul began to unfold.
First off, on the 20th of September a source within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Iraq revealed to Iraqi broadcast company Al-Sumaria that IS’ current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been spotted inside the city of Mosul just a few days earlier.
Al-Baghdadi was reportedly seen in public gatherings and while driving a white car in the streets of Mosul, escorted by four armed men. According to international sources, IS’ most prominent figure reached the Iraqi capital city of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” to try and diminish discontent within the residents of the area, allegedly caused by the imminent offensive for the liberation of Mosul of the government forces and their allies.
Experts are still trying to understand whether the photograph provided to Al-Sumaria network, which portraits al-Baghdadi meeting people in a mosque or at a market, is authentic or not – and if it was actually taken in the recent past. Meanwhile, the government source asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
The latest news on IS chemical weapons are equally worrying. The Pentagon held a press conference on Thursday and stated that laboratory tests and in-depth analysis carried out immediately after IS’ attack on Qayyara military base (which occurred two days earlier) confirmed the use of so-called “mustard gas”. This is a very powerful chemical weapon firstly exploited during World War I, which contains yprite.
Despite IS certainly hit with chemical weapons in the past, the US Department of Defense confirmation of the use of mustard gas is the first one coming from a very reliable and influential source, and it raised concerns among the international community.