Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The second wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has recently claimed that her former husband was "a normal family man" before he became the infamous leader of the extremist Islamic State group.
In an interview Saturday with the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Iraqi-born Saga al-Dulaimi recounted her life with one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
"I married a normal person who was a university lecturer. At the time his name was Hisham Mohammad," al-Dulaimi told Expressen.
She added that when she married her husband in 2008 she was not aware that he was involved in any extremist activities.
"I didn't notice that he was actively involved in the resistance movement at all. He was a normal family man," al-Dulaimi said. "How he could become Emir of the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world is a mystery."
Since 2011, the US State Department has offered a $10 million reward for information that could lead to al-Baghdadi's location or arrest.
Al-Dulaimi said her father had approved of the marriage with the man who would become to be known as al-Baghdadi
after her first husband, an Iraqi in Saddam Hussein's security convoy, died while fighting the US army. She had twin infant boys from that marriage.
Four months ago, 28-year-old al-Dulaimi and her four children, including daughter Hagar whom she had with al-Badhdadi, were released from a Lebanese jail as part of a prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the al-Qaida offshoot al-Nusra Front.
While the al-Dulaimi has remained quite until now about her relationship with the enigmatic, self-declared "caliph" of the terrorist group known as ISIS, she told Expressen
that she left al-Baghdadi because she was not happy in the marriage nor in the household as a second wife.
"I had been pregnant for a month without either of us knowing. I left him. Yes, you could say that I fled from him," Expressen
quoted her as explaining. "It had nothing to do with him as a person. I wasn't happy. It was unfair on his first wife. She was very upset. That's why I left."
After leaving the ISIS leader, al-Dulaimi moved back in with her first husband's family in Baghdad. Years later after being arrested and released in Syria for her family's alleged ties to al-Nusra Front
, al-Dulaimi fled to Lebanon during a Syrian army campaign against the group's positions.
Lebanese authorities arrested her for illegally crossing the border, and it was there she learned what had become of her ex-husband. In June 2014 al-Baghdadi was named as the "caliph" of the group now known as ISIS.
"It was when I got to Lebanon that I received the shocking news. They showed me pictures of my ex-husband and asked me if I recognized him," she recounted. "It turns out I was married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a shock to find out - seven years later - that I'd been married to the most dangerous man in the world. I smashed a window in anger."
Since then, al-Dulmaimi has remarried to a Palestinian man and now seeks to leave the Middle East.