Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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Caliph Ibrahim[1]
Mugshot of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.jpg
Mugshot of al-Baghdadi during Camp Bucca internment.
Caliph of the Islamic State[2]
Reign 29 June 2014 – present
Predecessor Office created
Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
In office 8 April 2013 – 29 June 2014[3]
Predecessor Office created
Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq
In office 16 May 2010 – 7 April 2013[3]
Predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
Spouse Saja al-Duleimi[4]
Full name
Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai
Arabic: إبراهيم عواد إبراهيم البدري القرشي السامرائي
(nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Arabic: أبو بكر البغدادي)
Born 1971 (age 42–43)[5]
Near Samarra, Iraq[5]
Religion Salafist Sunni Islam[6]

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), formerly also known as Dr Ibrahim and Abu Du'a (أبو دعاء),[7] most commonly known by the nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (أبو بكر البغدادي),[8] and in an attempt to claim him as a descendant of Muhammad, more recently as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi (أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني الهاشمي القرشي)[9] and now as Amir al-Mu'minin Caliph Ibrahim[1][10] (أمير المؤمنين الخليفة إبراهيم), has been named the Caliphhead of state and theocratic absolute monarch—of the self-proclaimed Islamic State located in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria. He is the former leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternatively translated as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[11]

On 4 October 2011, the US State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and announced a reward of up to US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death.[12] Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of the global al-Qaeda organization, merits a larger reward (US$25 million).[13]


Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born near Samarra, Iraq, in 1971.[14] According to an alleged biography posted on jihadist internet forums in July 2013, he earned a master's degree and a PhD in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad[15]—since renamed the Iraqi University—in Adhamiya, Baghdad.[14] Reports suggest that he was a cleric at the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal Mosque in Samarra at around the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.[16][8]

Militant activity[edit]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Allegiance al-Qaeda (formerly)[17]
Commands held

Islamic State of Iraq

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Battles/wars Iraqi Insurgency
Syrian Civil War
2014 Northern Iraq offensive

After the US 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 group's sharia committee.[16] 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.[16][18]

According to US Department of Defense records, al-Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca as a "civilian internee" by US Forces-Iraq from February until December 2004, when he was recommended for an "unconditional release" by a Combined Review and Release Board.[19][16] A number of newspapers, in contrast, have stated that al-Baghdadi was interned from 2005 to 2009. These reports originated with an interview of Army Col Kenneth King, the former commander of Camp Bucca, and are not substantiated by US Department of Defense records.[20][21][22]

As leader of the Islamic State in Iraq[edit]

Public service announcement for the bounty (reward) of al-Baghdadi (aka Abu Du'a) from Rewards for Justice Program

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)—also known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq or AQI—was the Iraqi division of the international Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda. Al-Baghdadi was announced as leader of the ISI on 16 May 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in a raid the month before.[3]

As leader of the ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for managing and directing large-scale operations such as the 28 August 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad which killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi.[12] Between March and April 2011, the ISI claimed 23 attacks south of Baghdad, all of which were alleged to have been carried out under al-Baghdadi's command.[12]

Following the US commando raid on 2 May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda supreme leader Osama bin Laden, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogizing bin Laden and threatened violent retaliation for his death.[12] On 5 May 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others.[12][23]

On 15 August 2011, a wave of ISI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths.[12] Shortly thereafter, the ISI pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq in retaliation for bin Laden's death.[12] It stated that this campaign would feature various methods of attack, including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks, in all cities and rural areas across the country.[12]

On 22 December 2011, a series of coordinated car bombings and IED 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.[24] On 26 December, 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.[24]

On 2 December 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.[25][26] However, this claim was rejected by the ISI.[27] In an interview with Al Jazeera on 7 December 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.[28]

As leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[edit]

Al-Baghdadi remained leader of the ISI until its formal expansion into Syria in 2013, when in a statement on 8 April 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).[29] As the leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi took charge of running all ISIS activity in Iraq and Syria.

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.[29][30] 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 80% of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign fighters.[32] In January 2014, ISIS expelled Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian city of Raqqa, 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.[33] In February 2014, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIS.[17]

According to several Western sources, al-Baghdadi and ISIS have received private financing from citizens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and enlisted fighters from recruitment drives in Saudi Arabia in particular. [34][35][36][37]

As Caliph of the Islamic State[edit]

On 29 June 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).[2][10] There has been much debate across the Muslim world about the legitimacy of these moves.

The declaration of a caliphate has been heavily criticized by Middle Eastern governments and other jihadist groups,[38] and by Sunni Muslim theologians and historians. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent scholar living in Qatar stated: "[The] declaration issued by the Islamic State is void under sharia and has dangerous consequences for the Sunnis in Iraq and for the revolt in Syria", adding that the title of caliph can "only be given by the entire Muslim nation", not by a single group.[39]

In an audio-taped message, al-Baghdadi announced that ISIS would march on Rome in its quest to establish an Islamic State from the Middle East across Europe, saying that he would conquer both Rome and Spain in this endeavor. He also urged Muslims across the world to emigrate to the new Islamic State.[40][41]

On 5 July 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".[39] However, both the BBC[42] and the Associated Press[43] 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.[44]


  1. ^ a b Rubin, Alissa J. (5 July 2014). "Militant Leader in Rare Appearance in Iraq". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Withnall, Adam (30 June 2014). "Iraq crisis: Isis changes name and declares its territories a new Islamic state with 'restoration of caliphate' in Middle East". The Independent. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Shadid, Anthony (16 May 2010). "Iraqi Insurgent Group Names New Leaders". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "Revealed: The 'correct' wife of ISIS leader". Al Arabiya. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee adds Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai to its Sanctions List". 5 October 2011. United Nations Security Council, SC/10405. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
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  11. ^ "Terrorist Designations of Groups Operating in Syria". United States Department of State. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
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  13. ^ "IRAQ: U.S. offers $10-million reward for Al Qaeda in Iraq leader". Los Angeles Times. WorldNow. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Chulov, Martin (6 July 2014). "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi emerges from shadows to rally Islamist followers". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2014.  This article reported the university at which he studied as being in Adhamiya, the location of the Islamic University, but apparently misnamed it the University of Islamic Sciences.
  15. ^ "A biography of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi". Insite Blog on Terrorism & Extremism. SITE Intelligence Group. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014. "He is "a graduate of the Islamic University in Baghdad, where he finished his academic studies (BA, MA and PhD)" 
  16. ^ a b c d "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Islamic State's driving force". BBC News. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
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  21. ^ "Iraq crisis: the jihadist behind the takeover of Mosul - and how America let him go". The Telegraph. 
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  26. ^ Tawfeeq, Mohammed (3 December 2012). "High-ranking al Qaeda in Iraq figure arrested, officials say". CNN. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "Islamic State of Iraq denies its emir captured". The Long War Journal. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  28. ^ Arraf, Jane (7 December 2012). "Detained man is not al-Qaeda in Iraq leader". Ajazeera. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  29. ^ a b "ISI Confirms That Jabhat Al-Nusra Is Its Extension in Syria, Declares 'Islamic State of Iraq And Al-Sham' As New Name Of Merged Group". MEMRI. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  30. ^ "Category Archives: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām". JIHADOLOGY. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  31. ^ Mroue, Bassem (11 June 2013). "Syria And Iraq Al Qaeda Merger Annulment Announced By Ayman Al Zawahri". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
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  33. ^ Holmes, Oliver (12 May 2014). "This disowned Al Qaeda branch is killing more Al Qaeda fighters in Syria than anyone else". Thomson Reuters GlobalPost. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
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  35. ^ Hauslohner, Abigail (13 June 2014). "Jihadist Expansion in Iraq puts Persian Gulf states in a tight spot". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
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  37. ^ "ISIL targets Saudi Arabia in recruitment drive". The National. 16 June 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  38. ^ ""They're delusional": Rivals ridicule ISIS declaration of Islamic state". CBS News. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  39. ^ a b Strange, Hannah (5 July 2014). "Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi addresses Muslims in Mosul". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  40. ^ Elgot, Jessica (2 July 2014). "ISIS Head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Warns 'We Will Conquer Rome'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  41. ^ "A Message to the Mujahidin and Muslim Ummah in the Month of Ramadan From Amir Ul Mu’minin Abu Bakr Al Husayni Al Qurashi Al-Baghdadi". JustPaste.It. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
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  44. ^ "ISIS leader calls for global Muslim obedience". Middle East Star. 5 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014.