Washington, Dec 18: The US has more than doubled the reward for information leading to the capture of dreaded Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to USD 25 million. The Department of State released a statement announcing the USD 25 million reward for the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The new bounty, USD 25 million, is the same amount offered for Osama bin Laden in 2011, but no one ever cashed in after the al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan by a team of Navy SEALs in May of that year.
"Protecting the homeland and the American people is our top counter-terrorism priority, and just as we have intensified our efforts against ISIL (another name for ISIS), we are increasing the means available to us to gain information on their leadership and bring them to justice," the State Department said in a statement. "The threat that al-Baghdadi poses has increased significantly since the Department of State's initial USD 10 million reward offer for information leading to his location, arrest, or conviction was announced in 2011," the department's Rewards for Justice Programme said on its website.
"Under Baghdadi, ISIL has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States," it said. "Al-Baghdadi has taken credit for numerous terrorist attacks in Iraq since 2011, killing thousands of his fellow Iraqi citizens," it added. Baghdadi is designated by the Department of State as a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist'. He is also listed at the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee.
US officials have long described Baghdadi as enemy No. 1 in the fight against the militant group and speculation has swirled over his whereabouts. Though Baghdadi has been elusive, he has spoken out occasionally in videos and audio messages. In October 2015, Iraq's military claimed its air force had struck a convoy in western Anbar province that included a vehicle carrying Baghdadi. For weeks, reports circulated that he was seriously injured in the airstrike. Those reports have since been disputed by US officials.