Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), has been incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage and he may never again lead the dreaded radical group, a media report said on Friday.
The world's most wanted terrorist, in his mid-40's, is being treated by two doctors who travel to his hideout from the group's stronghold of Mosul, the Guardian reported.
"More than two months after being injured in a US air strike in north-western Iraq, the self-proclaimed caliph is yet to resume command of the terror group that has been rampaging through Iraq and Syria since June last year.
"Three sources close to ISIS have confirmed that Baghdadi's wounds could mean he will never again lead the organisation," the British newspaper said.
ISIS is now being led by a long-term senior official, Abu Alaa al-Afri, who had been appointed deputy leader when his predecessor was killed by an air strike late last year, it said.
Afri is a professor of physics and a long-term member of ISIS. He was touted as successor to the group's previous leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a US-led raid near Tikrit in April 2010.
Details of Baghdadi's condition, and of the physicians treating him, have emerged since the paper reported that he had been seriously wounded on March 18 in an air strike in al-Baaj, 128km west of Mosul.
The Pentagon subsequently denied that Baghdadi had been killed and, while it acknowledged that it had carried out the attack, claimed to be unaware that Baghdadi had been among the casualties.
Quoting sources, the report said a female radiologist from a main Mosul hospital and a male surgeon had treated Baghdadi. Both, along with their extended families, are strong ideological supporters of the group.
Only a small group of ISIS leaders know the extent of Baghdadi's injuries, or where he is being treated.
However, word of his wounds has started to spread to the group's second-tier leadership, where talk is rife of avenging the most serious blow to ISIS since the group overran half of Iraq, the report said.
Baghdadi assumed the mantle of leader following his predecessor's death, but has dramatically risen to prominence since early 2013, when the group first made its presence felt in Syria's civil war.
In June last year, ISIS fighters ousted the Iraqi army from the north of the country, and took control of Mosul, Tikrit as well as Anbar and Nineveh provinces.
Two ISIS insiders also told the Guardian that the group was planning to attack Europe.
"They are planning to fight back against Europe," one member said. "They want to take revenge for Baghdadi."