Washington, May 11: With Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage, the terror group's shura council is to elect a stand-in leader this week to handle day-to-day affairs, according to a media report.
Baghdadi has been moved from Iraq to the Syrian city of Raqqa, the terror army's de facto capital, amid tight security two months after sustaining serious shrapnel wounds leaving his spine damaged and his left leg immobile, The Daily Beast reported citing accounts of jihadist defectors.
He is said to be mentally alert and able to issue orders, but his physical injuries are now prompting the so-called Islamic State's governing Shura Council to make a final decision on a temporary stand-in leader who can move back and forth between front-lines in Syria and Iraq and is able to handle day-to-day leadership in the self-declared caliphate.
That leader will be, in effect, under Baghdadi, a super deputy to the caliph - in Arabic, na'ib al-malik, or viceroy, the report said.
According to Islamic State defectors debriefed by opposition activists in neighbouring Turkey, the election will pit two Iraqis and a Syrian against each other - all well-known figures within the terror army's top leadership.
The defectors were debriefed by Ahmad Abdulkader, who recently launched a network of activists called 'Eye-On-The-Homeland'. Abdulkader displayed passports of defectors, debriefing notes and Islamic State ID cards to the US-based website.
He said the other would-be defectors have confirmed the claims of the security defectors. The defectors say media reports stating that Abu Ala al-Afri has already been appointed viceroy are inaccurate, claiming that the Shura Council, a religious governing body of about nine senior ISIS leaders, is due to vote this week on who will become na'ib al-malik.
The Shura Council is thought to be dominated by Iraqis. Apart from Afri, who is one of the nominees, there is a second Iraqi in the race for the slot - Abu Ali al-Anbari along with a Syrian contender.
Britain's Guardian newspaper first reported last month that Baghdadi had been injured in a March airstrike, citing a Western diplomat and an adviser to the Iraqi government. However, US defense officials have said that they have no knowledge of Baghdadi's fate and some said they were unaware of an airstrike on March 18.
Nine doctors to treat the infirm Baghdadi were also taken to Raqqa, including a senior physician from Mosul's general hospital, but the entire Baghdadi caravan of attending medics, aides and body guards was split into separate convoys to avoid attracting attention from US satellite surveillance, the report said quoting sources.