Monday, September 22, 2014

A00045 - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of Islamic State

Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-
Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai (Arabic: إبراهيم ابن عواد ابن إبراهيم ابن علي ابن محمد البدري السامرائي‎), more commonly known by his nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (أبو بكر البغدادي), is the Caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State -- previously the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)—located in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria.  He was formerly known as Abu Du'a (أبو دعاء).  He also uses the aliases Amir al-Mu'minin Caliph Ibrahim (أمير المؤمنين الخليفة إبراهيم) and, claiming descent from the Islamic prophet MuhammadAbu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi (أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني الهاشمي القرشي).

On October 4, 2011, the United States State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and announced a reward of up to $10 million (USD - United States Dollars) for information leading to his capture or death.  Only the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had a larger bounty ($25 million USD).

Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born near Samarra, Iraq, in 1971. According to a biography that circulated on jihadist internet forums in July 2013, he obtained a BA, MA, and PhD in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.

After the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Baghdadi helped to found the militant group Jamaat Jaysh Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaah (JJASJ), in which he served as head of the sharia committee. Al-Baghdadi and his group joined the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in 2006, in which he served as a member of the MSC's sharia committee. Following the renaming of the MSC as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2006, al-Baghdadi became the general supervisor of the ISI's sharia committee and a member of the group's senior consultative council.

According to the United States Department of Defense records, al-Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca as a 'civilian internee' by United States Forces - Iraq  from February until December 2004, when he was recommended for release by a Combined Review and Release Board. A number of newspapers have instead stated that al-Baghdadi was interned from 2005 to 2009. These reports originate from an interview with the former commander of Camp Bucca, Colonel Kenneth King, and are not substantiated by Department of Defense records.

The Islamic State of Iraq, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, was the Iraqi division of al-Qaeda.  Al-Baghdadi was announced as leader of the ISI on May 16, 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.  

As leader of the ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for masterminding large-scale operations such as the August 28, 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad which killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi. Between March and April 2011, the ISI claimed 23 attacks south of Baghdad, all allegedly carried out under al-Baghdadi's command.

Following the death of founder and head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan,  al-Baghdadi released a statement praising bin Laden and threatening violent retaliation for his death. On May 5, 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla, 62 miles south of Baghdad, that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others.

On August 15, 2011, a wave of ISI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths. Shortly thereafter, in retaliation for bin Laden's death, the ISI pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq featuring various methods of attack, including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks, in all cities and rural areas across the country.

On December 22, 2011, a series of coordinated car bombings and IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attacks struck over a dozen neighborhoods across Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding 180. The assault came just days after the US completed its troop withdrawal from the country.  On December 26, the ISI released a statement on jihadist internet forums claiming credit for the operation, stating that the targets of the Baghdad attack were "accurately surveyed and explored" and that the "operations were distributed between targeting security headquarters, military patrols and gatherings of the filthy ones of the al-Dajjal Army", referring to the Mahdi Army of Shia warlord Muqtada al-Sadr.  

On December 2, 2012, Iraqi officials claimed that they had captured al-Baghdadi in Baghdad following a two-month tracking operation. Officials claimed that they had also seized a list containing the names and locations of other al-Qaeda operatives.  However, this claim was rejected by the ISI.  In an interview with Al Jazeera, on December 7, 2012, Iraq's Acting Interior Minister said that the arrested man was not al-Baghdadi, but rather a section commander in charge of an area stretching from the northern outskirts of Baghdad to Taji.  

Al-Baghdadi remained leader of the ISI until its formal expansion into Syria in 2013, when in a statement on April 8, 2013, he announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -- alternatively translated from the Arabic as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

When announcing the formation of ISIS, al-Baghdadi stated that the Syrian Civil War jihadist faction, Jabhat al-Nusra — also known as al-Nusra Front — had been an extension of the ISI in Syria and was now to be merged with ISIS. The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, disputed this merging of the two groups and appealed to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, who issued a statement that ISIS should be abolished and that al-Baghdadi should confine his group's activities to Iraq.[31] Al-Baghdadi, however, dismissed al-Zawahiri's ruling and took control of a reported eighty percent (80%) of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign fighters. In January 2014, ISIS expelled Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah, and in the same month clashes between the two in Syria's Deir ez-Zor Governorate killed hundreds of fighters and displaced tens of thousands of civilians. In February 2014, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIS.

According to several Western sources, al-Baghdadi and ISIS have received private financing from citizens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and enlisted fighters through recruitment drives in Saudi Arabia in particular.

On June 29, 2014, ISIS announced the establishment of a caliphate. Al-Baghdadi was named its caliph, to be known as Caliph Ibrahim, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was renamed the Islamic State (IS). 

The declaration of a caliphate was heavily criticized by Middle Eastern governments and other jihadist groups, and by Sunni Muslim theologians and historians.

IOn July 5, 2014, a video was released apparently showing al-Baghdadi making a speech at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, northern Iraq. A representative of the Iraqi government denied that the video was of al-Baghdadi, calling it a "farce". However, both the BBC and the Associated Press quoted unnamed Iraqi officials as saying that the man in the video was believed to be al-Baghdadi. In the video, al-Baghdadi declared himself the world leader of Muslims and called on Muslims everywhere to support him.

On July 8, 2014, ISIS launched its magazine Dabiq.  Its title appears to have been selected for its eschatological connections with the Islamic version of the End times or Malahim. 

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