Washington (CNN)The U.S. effort to take out senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other top ISIS officials is increasingly focusing on Raqqa, Syria, the self-declared capital of ISIS, CNN has learned.
The military is watching for signs of movement there as Kurdish forces are now just 35 miles north of the city -- an advance that could make ISIS leadership nervous enough to change their positions in the coming weeks.
A leading theory among U.S. intelligence agencies is that al-Baghdadi remains in Raqqa but is hiding among the densely packed population, knowing that the U.S. will not target civilians and well aware of the U.S. "rules of engagement." It comes at the very time U.S. special forces are also stepping up their targeting assistance to Kurdish ground forces advancing towards Raqqa, according to U.S. officials.
"U.S. intelligence information leads us to believe he is alive and in control," a senior official said, adding that the U.S. has a stream of current intelligence from a variety of sources that confirms that view. While the official would not confirm the specific intelligence, the U.S. continues to intercept ISIS communications wherever it can, several officials have told CNN.
The official described al-Baghdadi's current profile as "more Ayman al-Zawahiri than Osama bin Laden," meaning he's engaged in day-to-day operations and keenly aware of how to sail below the radar.
It's believed that the U.S. still has not been able to pinpoint Zawahiri's specific location, though he's believed to remain in his traditional area of operations in Pakistan, just as al-Baghdadi is not believed to stray from Raqqa.
Murdering Psychopaths of the Islamic State (ISIS) which is a Sunni Muslim extremist group plans terror attacks in USA by end of Ramadan Friday July 17, 2015 with New York City the #1 target. Murdering Psychopaths of the Islamic State (ISIS) gunned down 38 people on a Tunisian beach, a suicide bomb attack massacred 27 innocent worshipers and injured 200 others at a Shia mosque in Kuwait. ‘These attacks came days after ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani urged its followers to launch attacks during Ramadan, as death this month is considered more valuable than in other months,’ an ISW counter-terrorism analyst told MailOnline. All of these Muslim ‘Mooks’ in the last couple of weeks have been attacking cops with long knives, are public beheadings in the near future. (Mook..Coined in the Scorsese film ‘Mean Streets’ means a arsehole or loser).
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