An estimated number of 11,000 ISIS terrorists and 8000 supporters are still remaining in Iraq and Syria, High-ranking security officials say.
The Associated Press cited Iraqi intelligence and defense officials as saying that the number comprises an estimated 4,000 terrorists and 3,000 sympathizers, who were employed by the Takfiri group and received salaries, in Iraq and 7,000 terrorists and 5,000 supporters in neighboring Syria.
The countries used to be awash with around 19,000 to 25,000 Daesh terrorists alone in February 2016 and 20,000 to 31,000 in 2014.
The northern city of Mosul was ISIS’ main Iraqi stronghold, which was liberated on July 10. The group’s turf has now dwindled to patches within the northwestern province of Nineveh, the sprawling neighboring Anbar province, and the Hawija area in the nearby Kirkuk Province.
The northern city of Raqqa constitutes the group’s base in Syria, which is now the subject of concerted counter-terrorism operations and yet to be declared militant-free.
Reports have been circling around pointing to alleged death of the group’s notorious ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Iraqi intelligence officials, however, told AP that he was still alive.
“We will be reviving ISIS if we killed Baghdadi now,” one of the top officials said, adding the strategy was to get rid of possible successors first.
“We want to cripple the group in order to end it. We don’t want to give them a window for a comeback.”