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Invisible Sheikh of ISIS Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi killed; how he built caliphate

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

According to reports from Radio Iran, the Islamic State chief has died following injuries from an air strike against an Iraqi target last month. The terrorist was responsible for the death of 215,000 people in Syria alone, while the situation created by his group is being seen as the worst military threat to the world after World War II.

Baghdadi stood in stark contrast to any other religious leader. Even amongst the extremists, he possessed a peculiar history and a flexible strategy which stood as the cornerstone of his ISIS vision.

Starting from 2010 onwards, Baghdadi captained the ship of Islamic extremism with utmost efficiency and ease. Within a short span of five years he managed to usurp large swathes of Iraq and parts of Syria under the violent umbrella of ISIS.

The man was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US State Department, with a bounty of $ 10 million, second to only the leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Baghdadi–A regular guy

Baghdadi had a normal upbringing which should have ideally led to a more nuanced understanding of religion. Here are a few facts, from his childhood to his youth:

  •  Baghdadi had an intense passion for football during his teenage years.
  •  In his youth, the ISIS leader was quiet and shy and liked to spend time alone. Surprisingly, Baghdadi eschewed violence at that time.
  • Baghdadi was well educated. He held an undergraduate, a masters and a Phd degree in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad.

According to contemporaries of Baghdadi, he was not a preacher, although he used to lead the prayers sometimes. This is against the current image of Baghdadi as a grand Imam by the ISIS.

  •  Baghdadi was a practitioner of conservative ‘Salafi’ Islam. Normal acts of merry-making and socialization, like dancing, singing etc seemed so disgusting to him, that he ridiculed them as ‘irreligious’.
  • The ISIS leader was a family man and was a father to an 11-year-old son.

Even at the time of war by the USA for the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Baghdadi is believed to have harbored no ill-feelings against the Americans.

What led to the transformation?

Like many leaders, the life of Baghdadi was also a witness to a couple of landmark, life-defining events. Here is a look at the rapid transformation of Baghdadi:

In 2004, Baghdadi had a bitter argument with an owner of a local mosque, who was also his landlord. The owner had asked Baghdadi to join the Islamic Party, a thought which was sacrilegious according to Baghdadi. Seeing political parties as opposing God, Baghdadi refused the proposal and was subsequently banished from his house and eventually from Tobschi, his resident town.

Although the banishment might have been a catalyst for Baghdadi’s shift in allegiance to violent, radical Islam, it was a stint in an American prison which established Baghdadi as the jihadist that he was.

In 2004, American forces had arrested him near Fallujah, and later imprisoned him at the Camp Bucca detention centre as a ‘’civilian internee” for almost an year.

He is believed to have been radicalized by jihadists from al-Qaeda, the terror inflicting Islamic group that was organizing large scale suicide bombings in Iraq.

Baghdadi–the unlikely sly operator of ISIS

Baghdadi had an unusual, typical style of operating and presenting himself. It was to present the least level of personality– or a secret persona to the outside world and his coterie of followers. This was particularly attractive to the youth and gave him an aura of innocence, which further magnified his mass-appeal.

In fact, this was one of the main reasons he managed to befuddle the Americans and escape their net. After failing to recognize him as a dangerous individual, the US guards released him from prison when it shut in 2009.

After being handed down the mandate of ISIS, Baghdadi had brought unprecedented changes in the workings of the terror group.

With decentralization of the power structure, he had ensured that one man’s death does not lead to the disruption of the organization.

He was more scheming and circumspect in his approach and was willing to abort missions if he felt the life of his men was at stake.

The ISIS leader had spelled a deep and ambitious plan for the organization. He planned to expand the caliphate continuously and even visualized to take over Rome.

With his shrewd, calculative mind, Baghdadi ensured that ISIS became deeply entrenched within the Iraqi population, incapable of being dislodged by local police forces.

Although cases of sexual violence abound against non-Muslim women in ISIS, a clever tactic of involving women was also propounded by Baghdadi.

By injecting Islamic extremism with doses of novel tactics and strategies, Baghdadi had indeed brought in a tectonic shift in the working of ISIS. He ensured that the terror outfit stays alive, functioning as a well-oiled group, long after he perished to jihad.

 

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U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Withdraw Of Almost All The Troops From Syria

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared.

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump shows maps of Syria and Iraq depicting the size of the "ISIS physical caliphate" as he speaks to workers at the country's only remaining tank manufacturing plant, in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

In late 2018, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw almost all of its troops from Syria, saying the Islamic State terror group had been defeated and there was no longer a reason to deploy U.S. forces in the war-torn nation.

The announcement led to the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who reportedly felt the drawdown was premature.

In the months since Trump announced the defeat of IS, he has wavered on whether the group has been vanquished. Sometimes he predicted that total victory would come in hours or days, while other times he has doubled down on the claim that the IS threat has been eliminated.

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Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria. VOA

Here’s a chronology of claims concerning the demise of Islamic State.

Dec. 19, 2018 — Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria.

Dec. 22, 2018 — Trump tweets that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”

Jan. 16, 2019 — Vice President Mike Pence declares in a speech at the State Department that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” Earlier that day, four Americans were killed in Syria by an IS suicide bomber.

Jan. 30, 2019 — Trump tweets about the “tremendous progress” made in Syria and that the IS “Caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

Feb. 1, 2019 — Trump repeats that “We will soon have destroyed 100 percent of the Caliphate.”

Feb. 3, 2019 — Trump tells CBS News, “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”

Feb. 6, 2019 — Trump predicts that the declaration that the coalition has captured all IS holdings “should be formally announced sometime, probably next week.”

Feb. 10, 2019 — Trump tweets that the U.S. will control all former IS territory in Syria “soon.”

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Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!” Pixabay

Feb. 11, 2019 — At a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump says the announcement that 100 percent of Islamic State territory has been captured will be coming “maybe over the next week, maybe less.”

Feb. 15, 2019 — At a news conference Trump says a statement about “our success with the eradication of the caliphate … will be announced over the next 24 hours.”

Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”

Feb. 22, 2019 — Trump tells reporters “In another short period of time, like hours — you’ll be hearing hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It will — it’s 100 percent defeated.”

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March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.” VOA

Feb. 28, 2019 — In a speech to U.S. troops in Alaska, Trump says, “We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate.”

March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.”

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March 20, 2019 — Trump shows reporters a map that plots the territory still held by the Islamic State in Syria and promises that area “will be gone by tonight.”

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared. Some also note that even when IS no longer controls any territory, fighters who escaped capture and are hiding within civilian populations could still pose a security threat. (VOA)