The leader of what is currently the world’s most dangerous terror group in the world has reportedly been seriously wounded in an air strike in western Iraq, Martin Chulov at The Guardian reports.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), “suffered serious injuries during an attack by the US-led coalition in March,” according to Chulov’s sources.
Two officials, one western and one Iraqi, confirmed to The Guardian that the air strike took place in a district of Nineveh, close to the Syrian border, in March.
Chulov reports that officials didn’t know that Baghdadi was in one of the cars targeted in the air strike. He was reportedly staying in that area of Iraq because he “knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there,” a source who is aware of Baghdadi’s movements told The Guardian.
Baghdadi is reportedly recovering slowly, but he has not resumed day-to-day control of ISIS. Since rising to power as the leader of ISIS, he has operated mostly in the shadows, appearing in public very infrequently.
The Sunni militant group, masterminded by a former Iraq colonel in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services, has a highly structured organisation.
“In 2010, Bakr and a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir and later ‘caliph,’ the official leader of the Islamic State,” Der Spiegel reported recently. “They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face.”
After Baghdadi was wounded, ISIS leaders reportedly began scrambling to figure out a succession plan because they believed he was going to die, according to The Guardian. Previous reports about Baghdadi’s death or severe injury have been proven false.
Given the dominance of Saddam-era intel officials, ISIS is unlikely to be fatally crippled if Baghdadi is unable to lead.
“While Baghdadi invokes authority as a religious leader, the constant threat from the skies has led to some of its command and strategic decisions being made by other member of the leadership,” Chulov writes. “Since Baghdadi’s wounding, Isis’s military and Shura councils have become increasingly prominent in decision-making, the source close to the organisation revealed.”
Chulov previously reported on how Baghdadi and others held at Camp Bucca, a US-run prison in southern Iraq, formed the basis of ISIS and used the camp as a planning ground for terrorism.
Baghdadi was detained by US forces in Fallujah in 2004 during the insurgency against US forces in Iraq and eventually taken to Camp Bucca, according to The Guardian. Americans reportedly determined he was no longer a threat and authorised his release that same year. Baghdadi then rose to power in Iraq, and others from American prison camps in the country went on to join ISIS.
Baghdadi declared himself the “caliph” of the self-declared Islamic State in July, the terror group rampaged across northern Iraq from neighbouring Syria last summer. The rise and resilience of the group took advantage of widespread Sunni discontent in Syria and Iraq.
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