Portuguese / Spanish / English

Middle East Near You

Profile: Mysterious “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Abu Mohammed Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS – also known by its Arabic acronym Daash), declared on Sunday the establishment of the “Caliphate State” in areas over which the group has control in Iraq and Syria. He also swore his allegiance to the organisation’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the “Caliph of the Muslims”, after the group’s Shura Council had given its allegiance, according to a tape broadcast on jihadist websites.

So who is “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? According to Adnani, his full name is Ibrahim bin Awad bin Ibrahim bin Ali bin Mohammed Al-Badri Al-Qurashi Al-Hashimi Al-Husseini; he is Al-Samarai by birth and upbringing, Al-Baghdadi as a student and a resident. This was the first time that the full name of the organisation’s leader has been announced.

Adnani claimed not to know, according to the leaked audiotape, the biography of the “Caliph” or the criteria by which he was chosen for this position. However, he insisted that “he meets all the conditions for a Caliph as mentioned by scholars”, without explaining what these conditions are. He described Al-Baghdadi as “a jihadi, Sheikh, scholar, worker, worshipper, Imam, gallant reformer, descendent from the prophetic household.”

The organisation insists that Al-Baghdadi took office as leader of ISIS following the killing of the former head, Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi, in 2010, although there are no pictures or video recordings which show his character, nor was his real name disclosed before Sunday’s recording.

Various websites close to the organisation have mentioned on social networks that Al-Baghdadi was born in the city of Samarra in Salahuddin province in the north of Iraq in 1971 and studied at the hands of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed by US bombs in 2006. The latter explains the loyalty of ISIS to Al-Zarqawi and the raising of his pictures by some of the fighters even eight years after his death.

What remains is what the media provides about the details of Al-Baghdadi’s life and his detention by US forces in Iraq for four years before being released in 2009; all are based on interpretations and speculations since neither the Iraqi nor US authorities have confirmed that information. Furthermore, the Iraqi authorities claimed not to have any information on Al-Baghdadi, even after the organisation announced his full name on Sunday.

In an April 2013 audio recording, Al-Baghdadi said that Al-Nasra Front in Syria is part of the Islamic State in Iraq and that ISIS would henceforth be formed. His goal was to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. This was rejected by Al-Nasra, which led to the issue of the controversial statements and opinions between Al-Baghdadi and the leader of Al-Nasra, Abu Mohammed Joulani, resulting in the outbreak of armed clashes between the two groups last year. Both groups follow the ideology of Al-Qaeda in Syria, which is still ongoing and has led to the deaths of hundreds.

Al-Baghdadi showed his willingness to rebel against the decisions of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, with the first announcement of the decision to join Al-Nasra to the organisation in Iraq. That was rejected by Al-Zawahiri, who told Al-Baghdadi in several audio recordings that he should devote himself to what he described as “wounded Iraq” and to return to the “Ameer” (Al-Zawahiri) with “obedience”. This was rejected by ISIS, which launched an attack on Al-Zawahiri and asked him to pledge allegiance to Al-Baghdadi, as an Ameer.

The organisation owes its greatest expansion to Al-Baghdadi, since the founding of Al-Qaida in Iraq after the US invasion and occupation of the country in 2003. Under his leadership ISIS has extended its zones of influence to the Diyala province in the east of Iraq and the provinces of Salahuddin, Nineveh and Anbar to the west; it is also in contact with the province of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, providing a stronghold for the organisation in the country. That influence extends down to the rural province of Aleppo in northern Syria where the organisation also maintains control.

In the first week of June ISIS celebrated the removal of what it called “the limits of humiliation”, the border between Syria and Iraq created by the colonial powers, as a prelude to the announcement of a “Caliphate State” which was announced on Sunday.

This article was syndicated from Anadolu News Agency

Categories
Blogs - PoliticsIraqMiddle East
Show Comments
Remembering Jamal - One year on
Show Comments