Just as US President Donald Trump tweeted “Something very big has just happened,” there were reports of Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s killing in a US Military swoop at an isolated location in northwest Syria near the Turkish border. Wait! What? Baghdadi killed AGAIN?
According to reports in the past across various platforms, Baghdadi was claimed to be dead/killed on numerous occasions and evidently, all of them turned out to be coined with a great amount of exaggeration. Courtesy all the drama surrounding his death, it now seems fair to ponder over the facts on the news of the IS chief’s death.
Dramatising it further, some reports claim that Baghdadi — one of the most feared terrorists and the world’s most wanted man — blew himself up in a suicide vest on being trapped inside his safe house by the US Military. Some reports also claim that a senior IS leader called Abu Yamaa and former IS spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir were also killed in the special operation.
Often seen in a black robe and a black turban, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahima-Badri, better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been the world’s most feared man, since the day he ascended at a mosque in Mosul in 2014 claiming to be the Caliph to the time he was killed.
Baghdadi strongly believed that his doctorate in Islamic studies had earned him a place among Islam’s historical figures and that his lineage could be traced back to Prophet Mohammed. He rose rapidly through the ranks of Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) after joining it with his group, Jamaat Jaysh Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaah, in 2006. By the time MSC was renamed as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in the same year, Baghdadi had already become the general supervisor of the ISI’s sharia committee and a member of the group’s senior consultative council.
Also known as the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the ISI pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda. Following the death of its leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in 2010, ISI announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its new chief. He remained the leader of the ISI until its formal expansion into Syria in 2013 when he announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) aka Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In 2014, ISIL announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate and named al-Baghdadi as the caliph, to be known as ‘Caliph Ibrahim’, and the ISIL was renamed as the Islamic State (IS).
Fire and fall of Baghdadi (See graph below)
Some called it a “painstaking intelligence work which ended as a complicated yet smooth military operation,” while others called it “cinematic crowning for United States,” as President Trump, from the White House, announced the success of ‘Operation Kayla Mueller’ which saw the end of the self-proclaimed ‘Caliph’.
The operation faced several threats in the form of Baghdadi’s location being an area of al-Qaeda’s territory and the air space above it being controlled by Syria and Russia. However, weeks of training for the mission that could overwhelm the best of fighters in the world and months of preparation held sway.
According to reports, the US also got information of his whereabouts from an ISIS courier and one of Baghdadi’s wives, both of whom had been arrested and questioned.
The CIA joined hands with Kurdish and Iraqi intelligence and worked with them for months to pinpoint Baghdadi’s location with the help of information gathered earlier from the IS chief’s aides.
The groundwork was successful as the teams, which worked on the mission for five long months, found that Baghdadi was in the small north-western Syrian town of Barisha in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, another extremist group commander.
Operation Kayla Mueller
The raid in Barisha was codenamed ‘Operation Kayla Mueller’, after humanitarian Kayla Mueller who was kidnapped by the IS from Aleppo in 2013 and was kept as a sex slave until being killed in 2015. Mueller, who was described by her family as a “devoted humanitarian,” travelled to Turkey in 2012 and crossed the border into Syria, on a mission to help those fleeing the civil war in the country.
According to an AFP report, Kayla’s father Carl Mueller said it had been “a roller coaster of emotions” waiting for Trump to announce the demise of the man responsible for his daughter’s death.
The 26-year-old aid worker was a “beautiful young woman” who died while trying to “help people,” Trump said during a news conference in which he announced that the operation was in honour of Kayla Mueller.
An Unusual Hero
“Every dog has its day” and Conan, the Belgian Malinois, sure did! A massive one!
The military dog played a major role in the raid that led to Baghdadi’s death. He is now being hailed as the “hero dog” and is set to get a celebration at the White House after he returns from his mission “Zero Bark Thirty.”
Conan, who got injured in the mission, has earned fans world over for chasing Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel in Syria, spurring him to detonate a suicide vest and blowing himself to pieces.
Confirmation from IS
Throwing much-needed light on all unanswered questions, IS confirmed the death of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir by praising them to be “martyrs”.
The announcement was made in an audio message released through its central media operation, four days after the US President told a nationally televised news conference that the US forces brought “the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice.”
In the audio message, the group’s new spokesperson announced a rarely-heard name Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi as Baghdadi’s successor and the dreaded group’s new caliph. With this, the dubiety over Baghdadi’s killing ‘almost’ seems to be buried.
Torture at camps, spread of IS (See graph below)
The killing of al-Baghdadi leaves the IS without an obvious leader but the militant group, which arose from the remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq after that group’s defeat by the US-led forces in 2008, has ambitions to regenerate again. And it remains a dangerous threat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Indonesia.
“The bottom line is: This puts the enemy on its heels, but the ideology — and this sounds so cliched — is not dead,” said Chris Costa, a former senior director for counterterrorism for the National Security Council in the Trump administration.
The violence in the name of ‘jihad’ is likely to prevail under the new leadership owing to the fact that the ideology of Daesh has been to “Kill where you are”, posing potential threats across the world.
The jihadist message that al-Baghdadi had given is likely to live on even after his death as the IS in the audio tape it released confirming its leader’s death also vowed to take revenge against the United States.