Officials: 19,000 Daesh militants, supporters in Iraq, Syria
Story Code : 657036
The sheer number comprises an estimated 4,000 militants and 3,000 sympathizers, who were employed by the Takfiri group and received salaries, they told The Associated Press anonymously.
The sources said neighboring Syria was holding another 7,000 Daesh militants and 5,000 supporters.
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 Daesh's 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 Raqqah 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 Daesh 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."