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Lebanon Detains Wife, Child of Islamic State Leader

FILE - Image taken a from video shows a man purported to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, senior leader of the Islamic State militant group. It's not clear whether he was hit in a recent airstrike.

Security officials say the Lebanese military has detained a wife and child of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The officials say the woman and child are being held and questioned at Lebanon's defense ministry, after being detained about 10 days ago near the border with Syria, while carrying fake identification cards.

The arrest of the second wife of the Islamic State leader was revealed Tuesday, but Lebanese officials say she was taken into custody more than a week ago with one of her children. Beirut's As Safir newspaper indicated she is being interrogated at the Lebanese defense ministry. Officials declined to give any details.

Lebanese media report that the woman, who goes by the name of Saja Dulaimi, had been living in the northern port city of Tripoli with a false identity card. Sky News Arabia reported that Dulaimi is a Syrian national, while another Arab station said she is Iraqi.

Arab media showed amateur video of Dulaimi being released by Syrian authorities last March in exchange for a group of nuns who had been seized by the al-Qaida-linked group Jabhat al Nusra.

The nuns' captors shouted and chanted to celebrate as the exchange took place. Dulaimi is seen in the video with at least one of her three children.

Al Arabiya TV said the Lebanese government announced Dulaimi's arrest as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of a number of Lebanese Army soldiers being held by Jabhat al Nusra.

The Sunni militant group has threatened to kill at least one of those soldiers, a Shi'ite Muslim, unless several group members held by Lebanon are released. Jabhat al Nusra has already executed several Shi'ite Lebanese Army soldiers that it held.

It was not immediately clear however, what leverage Dulaimi's announced capture could have in that matter since her husband heads the rival Islamic State group. The two Islamist factions have fought bitter battles over parts of Syria and have frequently executed each other's partisans. Yet, on several occasions, fighters from both groups have worked together against common enemies.

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA that he thinks Dulaimi will eventually be released as part of a prisoner exchange, but he does not believe that she is an extremely valuable prisoner.

"If she were significant, she would have been based in safer places. Needless to say, the [Islamic State leader] has many wives and I understand he also has concubines and the arrest of one of his wives wouldn't really mean much for him," Khashan said. "Remember, ISIL used to sell Yazidi women for prices between $25 to $125, so I don't think this is the catch of the day."

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is the self-proclaimed “caliph” of the “Islamic State” over which he presides in parts of Syria and Iraq now under his group's control. He was reportedly injured in a coalition airstrike over western Iraq last month, but resurfaced in an audio message several weeks ago.

Very little is known about Baghdadi's personal life, including how many wives and children he has. Islamic law allows men to marry up to four women. Media reports say his detained wife was of either Iraqi or Syrian nationality.

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