Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
|Caliph of the Islamic State|
|Reign||29 June 2014 – present|
|Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|In office||8 April 2013 – 29 June 2014|
|Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq|
|In office||16 May 2010 – 7 April 2013|
|Predecessor||Abu Omar al-Baghdadi|
|Born||1971 (age 42–43)
Near Samarra, Iraq
|Religion||Salafiyya Sunni Islam|
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, (Arabic: أبو بكر البغدادي), known to his supporters as Amir al-Mu'minin, Caliph Ibrahim is emir, proclaimed as caliph, of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL is an Islamic extremist group in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, self-described as the "Islamic State".
He was formerly known as Abu Du'a (أبو دعاء). Claiming descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, he is called Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi (أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني الهاشمي القرشي).
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. Only the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, merits a larger reward (US$25 million).
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 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 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 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 release by a Combined Review and Release Board. A number of newspapers and cable news channels 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.
As leader of the Islamic State in Iraq
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was the Iraqi division of 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.
As leader of the ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for masterminding large-scale operations such as 28 August 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 2 May 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, al-Baghdadi released a statement praising bin Laden and threatening violent retaliation for his death. On 5 May 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla, 62 miles south of Baghdad, that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others.
On 15 August 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 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. 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.
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. However, this claim was rejected by the ISI. 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.
As leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
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).
When announcing the formation of ISIL, 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 ISIL. 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 ISIL should be abolished and that al-Baghdadi should confine his group's activities to Iraq. Al-Baghdadi, however, dismissed al-Zawahiri's ruling and took control of a reported 80% of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign fighters. In January 2014, ISIL 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 ISIL.
According to several Western sources, al-Baghdadi and ISIL have received private financing from citizens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and enlisted fighters through recruitment drives in Saudi Arabia in particular.
As Caliph of the Islamic State
On 29 June 2014, ISIL 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). There has been much debate especially across the Muslim world about the legitimacy of these moves.
The declaration of a caliphate has been heavily criticized by Middle Eastern governments, other jihadist groups, and Sunni Muslim theologians and historians. Qatar-based TV broadcaster and theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi 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.
In an audio-taped message, al-Baghdadi announced that ISIL would march on "Rome"—generally interpreted to mean the West—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 immigrate to the new Islamic State.
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". 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.
According to a report in October 2014, al-Baghdadi allegedly suffered serious injuries and fled the Islamic State capital of Ar-Raqqah due to the intense bombing campaign launched by coalition forces, and sought refuge in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the second largest city under ISIL control.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.|
- The ISIS Papers: A Compilation of Statements of Salafi Scholars on ISIS/ISIL, PDF: SalafiManhaj.com.