The sister of former Islamic State group (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been captured in northern Syria, Turkish officials say.
The 65-year-old, named as Rasmiya Awad, was detained in a raid on Monday near the town of Azaz, officials said.
Turkish officials, cited by several media outlets, believe the arrest could yield valuable intelligence about IS.
One Turkish official told Reuters news agency the arrest of Baghdadi’s older sister might help shed light on “the inner workings” of IS.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, hailed the arrest as “another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations”.
Turkey's fight against terror regardless of its ideology or origin continues unabated.
The arrest of al-Baghdadi's sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations.
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) November 4, 2019
Additionally, Turkey also said that it has arrested Rasmiya Awad’s husband and her daughter-in-law.
Meanwhile, a woman married to al-Baghdadi has also been captured and is in Turkish custody, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said.
Erdoğan made the announcement during a speech in Ankara on Wednesday but did not provide any further details. “The United States said Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel,” Erdogan said, criticising the US for a “communications campaign” over the jihadist’s death.
“But, I am announcing it here for the first time: we captured his wife and didn’t make a fuss like them. Similarly, we also captured his sister and brother-in-law in Syria.”
It is not clear when or how the unidentified woman was arrested by Turkish forces.
According to more details published by The New York Times:
Erdogan and Turkish officials revealed Wednesday that Turkish police detained one of al-Baghdadi’s wives and a daughter last year.
A Turkish official told The Associated Press that they were among a group of 11 IS suspects detained in a raid in southern Turkey on June 2, 2018. Police identified the wife as Asma Fawzi Muhammad al-Qubaysi. The official said she was the first wife of al-Baghdadi, who is known to have four wives. A subsequent DNA test confirmed that a suspect who identified herself as Leila Jabeer was al-Baghdadi’s daughter, the official said.
This week, Turkish authorities said they captured al-Baghdadi’s elder sister, Rasmiya Awad, her husband, daughter-in-law and five children in the town of Azaz, in Aleppo province in northwestern Syria. The region is administered by Turkey following a previous military incursion that was launched in 2016.
Erdogan said that the suspects were being kept in detention centers in Turkey while the Turkish Justice Ministry would decide how to handle their cases.
Al-Baghdadi blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. special forces on his heavily fortified safe house in the Syrian province of Idlib. The raid was a major blow to his extremist group, which has lost territories it held in Syria and Iraq in a series of military defeats by the U.S-led coalition and Syrian and Iraqi allies.