Wanted: Iraq publishes rare photo of ISIL leader
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi interior ministry Wednesday published a photograph purportedly of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al-Qaeda-linked group fighting in Iraq and Syria.
The photograph, the first of its kind published by an official source, provides a rare glimpse of the man leading a militant group blamed for killing countless Iraqis, as well as fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The black-and-white picture shows a balding man with a beard wearing a suit and tie.
"Intelligence forces have obtained a recent portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and they also got three handwritten letters," said the statement accompanying the photograph, published on the ministry's website.
"The security forces call on the people to provide any information that helps lead to the arrest of this criminal."
Baghdadi's group has been blamed for a litany of attacks across Iraq in recent months, and ISIL has been involved in a deadly standoff with government forces in western Iraq's Anbar province.
In Syria, ISIL has also been fighting not only forces loyal to Assad but also fellow rebel groups. The ISIL leader has, however, reached out to other rebel groups in a bid to curb the infighting.
ISIL, which was previously the Islamic State of Iraq, was formed in April 2013 when Baghdadi sought to merge his group with Al-Nusra Front, but they rejected the alliance and pledged allegiance directly to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Since then, the two groups have functioned separately.