Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon in the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul (July 2014)
Born alleged by jihadist websites[1] to be Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai
Arabic: إبراهيم ابن عواد ابن إبراهيم ابن علي ابن محمد البدري السامرائي

1971 (age 43–44)[2]
Near Samarra, Iraq[2]
Residence unknown, moves constantly within Iraq and Syria
Nationality Iraqi
Other names Abu Du'a[3]
Occupation Leader of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and predecessor organizations
Predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
Religion Salafiyya Islam[4]
Criminal charge
Abu Du’a is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under U.S. Executive Order 13224. He is also listed at the United Nations Security Council 1267/1989 al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.
Spouse(s) Saja al-Duleimi (an Iraqi wife detained in Lebanon), another Iraqi wife and a Syrian wife [5] [6]
Children One known daughter (detained in Lebanon) [7]
Allegiance Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Leader)
Reward amount
US$10 million by Rewards for Justice [3]
Capture status
Wanted by
United States,[3] Iraq
Victims Abu Du’a has taken personal credit for a series of terrorist attacks in Iraq since 2011 and claimed credit for the June 2013 operations against the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, the March 2013 suicide bombing assault on the Ministry of Justice, among other attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi citizens going about their daily lives.
Country Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, others
Target(s) Government forces, Civilians, Journalists
Weapon(s) armed insurrection, suicide bombs, IEDs, chemical weapons

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, (Arabic: أبو بكر البغدادي‎),[8][9][10] or Abu Du'a[11] (أبو دعاء) alternatively called Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi[12] (أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني الهاشمي القرشي) and known to his supporters as Amir al-Mu'minin, Caliph Ibrahim[8], is emir, proclaimed as caliph, of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

al-Baghdadi leads ISIL, an Islamic extremist group in western Iraq and northeastern Syria, self-described as the "Islamic State".[13]

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.[14] Only the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, merits a larger reward (US$25 million).[15]


Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born near Samarra, Iraq in 1971.[16][17] 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.[9][17][18][19] Other reports say that he earned a doctorate in education from the University of Baghdad.[20]

Militant activity

Some believe that he was already a militant jihadist during the rule of Saddam Hussein, but other reports contradict this. He may have been a mosque cleric at around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.[21]

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.[19] 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.[19][22]

US internment

According to United States 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.[19][23] 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.[24][25][26] Al-Baghdadi was imprisoned at Camp Bucca along with other future leaders of ISIL.[27]

As leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq

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 (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.[28]

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.[14] Between March and April 2011, the ISI claimed 23 attacks south of Baghdad, all allegedly carried out under al-Baghdadi's command.[14]

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.[14] 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.[14][29]

On 15 August 2011, a wave of ISI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths.[14] 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.[14]

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.[30] 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.[30]

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.[31][32] However, this claim was rejected by the ISI.[33] 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.[34]

Expansion into Syria and break with al-Qaeda

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).[35]

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.[35][36] 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.[37] Al-Baghdadi, however, dismissed al-Zawahiri's ruling and took control of a reported 80% of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign fighters.[38] 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.[39] In February 2014, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIL.[40]

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.[41][42][43][44]

As "Caliph" of the "Islamic State"

On 29 June 2014, ISIL announced the establishment of a worldwide 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).[10][45] 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,[46] 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.[47]

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. He said that he would conquer both Rome and Spain in this endeavor[48][49] and urged Muslims across the world to immigrate to the new Islamic State.[48][50]

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".[47] However, both the BBC[51] and the Associated Press[52] 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.[53]

On 8 July 2014, ISIL launched its online magazine Dabiq. The title appears to have been selected for its eschatological connections with the Islamic version of the End times, or Malahim.[54]

According to a report in October 2014, after suffering serious injuries, al-Baghdadi fled ISIL's capital city Ar-Raqqah due to the intense bombing campaign launched by coalition forces, and sought refuge in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest city under ISIL control.[55]

On 5 November 2014, al-Baghdadi sent a message to al-Qaeda Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri requesting him to sever his allegiance to Taliban commander Mullah Mohammed Omar. Al-Bagdahdi allegedly called the Taliban leader "an ignorant, illiterate warlord, unworthy of spiritual or political respect". He then urged al-Zawahiri to swear allegiance to him as Caliph, in return for a position in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The source of this information was a senior Taliban intelligence officer. Al-Zawahiri did not reply, and instead reassured the Taliban of his loyalty to Mullah Omar.[56]

On 8 November 2014, there were unconfirmed reports of al-Baghdadi's death after an airstrike in Mosul,[57] while other reports said that he was only wounded.[58]

On 13 November 2014, ISIL released an audio-taped message, claiming it to be in the voice of al-Baghdadi. In the 17-minute recording, released via social media, the speaker said that ISIL fighters would never cease fighting "even if only one soldier remains". The speaker urged supporters of the Islamic State to "erupt volcanoes of jihad" across the world. He called for attacks to be mounted in Saudi Arabia—describing Saudi leaders as "the head of the snake"—in retaliation for attacks on Houthis in Yemen and said that the US-led military campaign in Syria and Iraq was failing. He also said that ISIL would keep on marching, and that the Caliphate would extend to include Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya.[59]


Little is known about al-Baghdadi's family and sources provide conflicting information. Reuters, quoting tribal sources in Iraq, reports Baghdadi has three wives, two Iraqis and one Syrian.[60] CNN reports that the Iraqi Interior Ministry, citing a source in an intelligence cell under its authority that al-Baghdadi has two wives, Asma Fawzi Mohammed al-Dulaimi and Israa Rajab Mahal Al-Qaisi and "there is no wife named Saja al-Dulaimi."[61]

Saja al-Dulaimi

According to many sources, Saja al-Dulaimi is or was al-Baghdadi's wife. The couple met and fell in love online. [62]

She was arrested in Syria in late 2013 or early 2014, and was released from a Syrian jail in March 2014 as part of a prisoner swap involving 150 women in exchange for 13 nuns taken captive by al-Qaeda-linked militants. Also released in March were her two sons and her younger brother.[63]

Al-Dulaimi’s family allegedly all adhere to ISIL's ideology. Her father, Ibrahim Dulaimi, a so-called ISIL emir in Syria, was reportedly killed in September 2013 during an operation against the Syrian Army in Deir Attiyeh. Her sister, Duaa, was allegedly behind a suicide attack that targeted a Kurdish gathering in Erbil. [64] The Iraq Interior Ministry says that her brother is facing execution in Iraq for a series of bombing in southern Iraq.[65] [66] The Iraq government however said that al-Dulaimi was the daughter of an active member of al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front.[67]

In late November, al-Dulaimi was arrested and held for questioning by Lebanese authorities, along with two sons and a young daughter. They were traveling on false documents.[68] The children are being held in a care center, while Dulaimi is interrogated. [69]

The capture was a joint intelligence operation between Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with the Americans assisting the Iraqi's. Her potential intelligence value could range from very high to nothing. An unnamed intelligence source told the New York Times that when the Americans captured a wife of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq (an earlier name for ISIL) "We got little out of her, and when we sent her back, Zarqawi killed her." [70] The family members are seen by the Lebanese as potential bargaining chips in prisoner exchanges. [71]

In the clearest explanation yet of her connection to al-Bagdadi, Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk told Lebanon's MTV channel that "Dulaimi is not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's wife currently. She has been married three times: first to a man from the former Iraqi regime, with whom she had two sons."[72] Other sources identify her first husband as Fallah Ismail Jassem, a member of the Rashideen Army, who was killed in a battle with the Iraqi Army in 2010.[73] Machnouk continued "Six years ago she married Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for three months, and she had a daughter with him." "We conducted DNA tests on her and the daughter, which showed she was the mother of the girl, and that the girl is [Baghdadi's] daughter, based on DNA from Baghdadi from Iraq," and that "Now, she is married to a Palestinian and she is pregnant with his child." [74][75]

Al-Monitor reported that Dulaimi had been under scrutiny since earlier this year. “[Jabhat al-Nusra] insisted back in March on including her in the swap that ended the kidnapping of the Maaloula nuns. The negotiators said on their behalf that she was very important, and they were ready to cancel the whole deal for her sake.” He added, “It was later revealed by Abu Malik al-Talli, one of al-Nusra’s leaders, that she was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s wife.” [76]


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External links

  • The ISIS Papers: A Compilation of Statements of Salafi Scholars on ISIS/ISIL,  .

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