He’s among the many few senior IS commanders nonetheless at giant after two years of regular battlefield losses that noticed the self-styled “caliphate” shrink from an space the dimensions of Britain to a tiny speck within the Euphrates River valley.
Though largely seen as a symbolic figurehead of the worldwide terror community — he was described as “irrelevant for a very long time” by a coalition spokesman in 2017 — al-Baghdadi’s seize can be a coveted prize for the varied gamers throughout each Syria and Iraq.
However to date, he has eluded the People, Russians, Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds.
Within the final days of IS, as U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces zoned in on the final slice of territory held by the militants in japanese Syria — a few villages and farmlands close to the Iraqi border — the likelihood remained that al-Baghdadi would flip up there. A number of hundred IS leaders and hardcore fighters, a lot of them Iraqis, made a final stand within the enclave earlier than surrendering.
The final pocket, within the japanese village of Baghouz, was declared liberated on Saturday after weeks of combating. In the course of the siege, civilians streamed out of the pocket and surrendered — estimated at greater than 30,000, largely household of IS. However there was no signal ofal-Baghdadi.
“The Coalition will not be holding him nor do we all know the place he’s,” U.S.-led coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan instructed The Related Press.
Mohammed Kheder, co-founder of the Sound and Image group which paperwork IS, stated the final time al-Baghdadi was noticed within the space was about 15 months in the past, citing sources on the bottom and the testimony of the individuals who left the world.
In Twitter posts, Kheder’s group has stated it can’t rule out the likelihood al-Baghdadi was detained way back — “particularly since a lot of American airdrops and night time operations focusing on IS leaders alongside the Iraqi border haven’t been disclosed by the coalition.”
Iraqi intelligence officers consider al-Baghdadi is hiding someplace within the desert stretching throughout the Syrian-Iraqi border, utilizing tunnels to maneuver round.
“He doesn’t use any communication gear or web to keep away from detection by coalition planes,” a senior intelligence official stated. “When he needs to see somebody from the group, they’re delivered to him individually in automobiles that cease round two hours away from the place al-Baghdadi is, after which they’re delivered to him individually on bikes.”
One other official, a colonel, stated the People lately focused a few of al-Baghdadi’s closest individuals, together with his private bodyguard Khaled al-Saudi — generally known as Khallad — who was killed final week close to the world of al-Baaj alongside the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Khallad’s spouse was arrested. One other shut aide to al-Baghdadi was additionally lately killed and his spouse captured, the colonel stated, including that the People consider such targets will quickly cause them to al-Baghdadi. Each officers spoke on situation of anonymity to share intelligence data.
Al-Baghdadi was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq, and adopted his nom de guerre early on. In keeping with IS-affiliated web sites, he was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and despatched to Bucca jail in February 2004 for his anti-U.S. militant exercise.
He was launched 10 months later, after which he joined the al-Qaida department in Iraq of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He later assumed management of the group, identified on the time because the Islamic State of Iraq.
After Syria’s civil struggle erupted in 2011, al-Baghdadi dispatched comrades to the neighbouring nation to create a like-minded Sunni extremist group there. The group, which got here to be generally known as the Nusra Entrance, initially welcomed average Sunni rebels who have been a part of the rebellion in opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Over time, extra of his fighters and probably al-Baghdadi himself relocated to Syria, pursuing his plan to revive a medieval Islamic state, or caliphate. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi introduced what amounted to a hostile takeover of the Nusra Entrance, saying he was merging it into a brand new group generally known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Nusra Entrance’s chief Abu Mohammad al-Golani refused to simply accept the takeover — as did al-Qaida’s central management, which broke with al-Baghdadi.
WATCH: Kurdish TV exhibits a whole bunch of alleged ISIS fighters surrendering
Al-Baghdadi’s fighters went onto to seize a contiguous stretch of territory throughout Iraq and Syria, together with key cities similar to Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. In June 2014, the group introduced its personal state, or caliphate. Al-Baghdadi grew to become the declared caliph of the newly renamed Islamic State group.
The group dominated with a virulently excessive interpretation of Islamic regulation. The atrocities, massacres and beheadings by al-Baghdadi’s militants that adopted — many broadcast in grisly and macabre video postings on militant web sites — secured IS a spot in a few of the darkest, most brutal annals of contemporary historical past.
All through all of it, al-Baghdadi was within the shadows.
His solely identified public look on video was on June 29, 2014, when he appeared as a black-robed determine to ship a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul’s Nice Mosque of al-Nuri through which he urged Muslims around the globe to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its chief.
“It’s a burden to simply accept this accountability to be accountable for you,” he says within the video. “I’m not higher than you or extra virtuous than you. In case you see me on the best path, assist me. In case you see me on the fallacious path, advise me and halt me. And obey me so far as I obey God.”
Little is thought about al-Baghdadi’s household. An ex-wife, Saja al-Dulaimi, and her daughter from al-Baghdadi, have been detained in Lebanon in 2014. She was launched a yr later as a part of a swap with al-Qaida in alternate for kidnapped Lebanese troopers and policemen. In July 2018, IS introduced that al-Baghdadi’s son, Huthaifa al-Badri, had been killed combating authorities forces in central Syria.
WATCH: Video purports to point out ISIS presence in final remaining Syria stronghold
Not one of the subsequent reviews of al-Baghdadi being killed or wounded have been confirmed. In 2017, Russian officers stated there was a “excessive chance” he had been killed in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of Raqqa, however U.S. officers later stated they believed he was nonetheless alive.
He resurfaced in late September 2017, calling in an audio message on followers to burn their enemies in every single place. One other audio was posted final August through which al-Baghdadi urges followers to “persevere” in combating IS’ enemies — the speech was sprinkled with references to present occasions to point out it was current.
Specialists monitoring militant figures stated the voice within the recordings was al-Baghdadi’s.
It was the final time he was heard of.