Officials: ISIL leader’s wife, son detained in Lebanon

Arrest of Baghdadi’s family members could be used as bargaining chip for Lebanese authorities in prisoner exchange

Lebanese authorities detained a wife and son of the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) several days ago, and the woman is being questioned, two senior Lebanese officials said Tuesday.

A military official said the woman, an Iraqi citizen who has been living in Syria for many years, and her 10-year-old son were detained about 10 days ago while carrying fake identification cards.

Lebanese military spokesman Lt. Gen. Ali Qanso confirmed to Al Jazeera that the woman is Saja al-Dulaimi, a wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL’s reclusive leader. Dulaimi was reportedly held by Syrian authorities and freed in a prisoner exchange with Jabhat Al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) earlier this year. Jabhat Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns in March, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for the release of dozens of female prisoners by Syrian authorities.

The announcement of the arrest comes amid attempts to reach a prisoner-exchange deal between Lebanese authorities and ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra, which has been holding more than 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage since August. Jabhat Al-Nusra has demanded the release of Islamist prisoners being held by Lebanese authorities.

On Monday night, Jabhat Al-Nusra threatened to kill one of the soldiers it is holding captive. Dulaimi could be used as a bargaining chip for Lebanese authorities in their attempts to win their troops’ release.

A judicial official said that her interrogation is being supervised by Lebanon’s military prosecutor, Saqr Saqr, and that a DNA test is being performed to confirm that the child is the son of the detained woman.

The Lebanese daily As-Safir broke the news, saying the two were detained near a border crossing point with Syria. Qanso said that information leading to the arrest was coordinated with foreign intelligence agencies. 

Very little is known about Baghdadi's personal life, including how many wives and children he has. Conservative interpretations of Islam allow a man to marry up to four wives.

The Associated Press

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter