US raises reward for info on ISIS leader to $25M

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The U.S. is now offering $25 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The reward is more than double the $10 million it was previously, and puts the reward for Baghdadi on par with the one for al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.

“Protecting the homeland and the American people is our top counterterrorism priority, and just as we have intensified our efforts against ISIL, we are increasing the means available to us to gain information on their leadership and bring them to justice,” the State Department said in a press release announcing the new reward, using an alternate acronym for the group.

Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown, though there have been various rumors about his location.

{mosads}He broke a nearly yearlong silence in November with an audio message to his followers that was released as Iraqi forces entered the ISIS stronghold of Mosul for the first time in two years.

U.S. forces have been targeting his deputies, with the Pentagon touting Tuesday that coalition airstrikes have killed five ISIS leaders since just mid-November.

“#ISIL leaders being killed one-by-one,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, tweeted Friday. “Their so-called ‘caliph’ not far behind. New $25M reward for #Baghdadi.”

In a press briefing Tuesday, McGurk said Baghdadi’s face hasn’t been seen in more than a year and that the hiding has not sat well with his followers.

“I also think it is significant that he tried to be a kind of new type of terrorist leader — giving public speeches, going to the Grand Mosque and giving this sermon in the summer of 2014 — and he is now in deep, deep hiding,” McGurk said.

“And we have not heard from him until he issued this audiotape a couple months ago, and it was a very defensive message. It basically said, for all of the fighters in Mosul, stay and fight to the death. But all the indications we’re getting is that many did not take that message well, because where is Baghdadi? He is somewhere in hiding.”

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