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> Islamic State's enigmatic leader is thought to have gone to ground to focus on his own survival. As a self-declared caliphate crumbles around him. US and Iraqi intelligence sources telling Reuters that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears to have abandoned his followers in Mosul, leaving them to fight a losing battle.
This Islamic state photo purporting to show him delivering a sermon in the city last November, just weeks after it's siege began. Expressing confidence in victory, it would be the last known image of him. Since then, there's been a sharp decline in the militants communications, including propaganda and the postings that do go up, make little mention of Mosul.
The intelligence sources say the drop in chatter from Islamic State's leadership, and the massive gains by coalition forces in the four-month siege, suggest he's fled the city. An elusive target. They believe he now changes locations constantly, multiple times in one day, likely hiding amongst civilians in isolated villages, rather than with his hardcore fighters.
The last official report on his whereabouts came from an Iraqi airstrike on a house near the Syrian border, weeks ago. This video said to show his supporters who've remained behind. With Mosul's fall imminent and a battle raging for Islamic State stronghold in Syria, Raqqah. The group is now expected to move underground, similar to the Al Qaeda insurgency that hit Iraq after the US invasion in 2003.
Baghdadi is a former al-Qaida leader. And those intelligence sources say he's learned from his predecessor's mistakes.