[Published originally here. Omar al-Khani (Turkey) and I reported the following, edited by Newsweek Middle East Editor Janine DiGiovanni]
On the rare occasions when ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen in public, his entourage is somewhere between that of a president and a mobster. “The minute he entered, the mobile coverage disappeared,” says a 29-year-old resident of Raqqa in Syria—who asked to be identified only as Abu Ali—recalling the flawless security on one occasion when al-Baghdadi entered a mosque. “Armed guards closed the area. The women were sent upstairs to the women’s section to pray. Everyone was warned not to take photos or videos. It was the most nerve-racking atmosphere.