Baghdad: Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly fled from Iraq to Syria in a yellow taxi to avoid drawing suspicion. An intelligence source claimed the IS chief was hiding in Rawa, northwestern Iraq, when troops entered Qaim some 50 miles away near the Syrian border, the Daily Mail reported. Al-Baghdadi felt his presence in Rawa "threatened his life", so he scampered over the border to Deir ez-Zor in a vehicle synonymous with the western world of New York City.

The source was quoted by the Iraqi News as saying: "After Iraqi troops invaded Qaim, Baghdadi was aware that his presence in Rawa threatens his life. In a yellow taxi, Baghdadi fled Iraq and headed to Syria. He is believed to have settled in Deir ez-Zor." "The IS leader insisted on taking a yellow cab in order not to be a source for doubts. He urged the remaining IS fighters in Qaim to carry on fighting the Iraqi troops, but the source said they 'let him down and escaped in their personal cars to Syria."

The IS released a new audio recording in September purporting to be of Al-Baghdadi. The 46-minute audio recording was published by the Al-Furqan news organisation, which is affiliated with the IS, and came after Russia claimed to have killed Baghdadi in an airstrike on Raqqa in June. The previous time Baghdadi was heard on tape was back in November 2016 as the battle for Mosul was starting, in which he urged followers to fight the "unbelievers" and "make their blood flow as rivers".

US-backed forces subsequently drove the IS out of Mosul, it's last stronghold in Iraq and the city from which Baghdadi declared his Caliphate in 2014. Allied forces have since surrounded Raqqa, in Syria, which acted as the IS's de-facto capital and was another possible hiding spot for Baghdadi. Officials then believed he was likely hiding somewhere in the sparsely populated desert between these two cities, predicting it could take years to locate him. (IANS)