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The Caliph, With Many Lives…

The ISIS Chief was seen delivering speeches, standing in front of a microphone, from the balcony of a mosque. This image is probably the first that comes to our mind, when we think about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (born as Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri), the Islamic State (IS) leader. The media circulated this image whenever they covered stories on the IS chief, and also on the terror outfit’s brutality…

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al-Baghdadi was born in a Sunni family near Samarra, Iraq in 1971. He became famous after announcing himself as the ‘Caliph‘ in 2013. He was attracted by Quran and other religious customs during his childhood. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Baghdad in 1996. al-Baghdadi also had a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in Quranic Studies from Saddam University in Baghdad. During this period, he started teaching the Quran to children at a local mosque in the Iraqi capital, apart from playing football. He emerged as a star player in club football!

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al-Baghdadi’s uncle, who got involved in the ‘Muslim Brotherhood Movement’ in Iraq, had played an important role in his life. It was his uncle, who had inspired him to join the movement. In 2000, al-Baghdadi joined hands with the Salafi jihadists. According to sources close to the CIA, he was in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2000 to receive Jihadist training! He was a student during the Gulf War in the 1990s. When the US attacked Iraq once again in 2003, he emerged as a terrorist. The US forces arrested him (for the first and the last time) in 2004. He was detained at the Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca detention centres for 10 months under his name Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry as a civilian internee.

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The American intelligence officers have claimed that al-Baghdadi was an introvert person, as he concentrated mainly on religious practices during his captivity. He was also in constant touch with leaders of different terror outfits, who were also detained at the same camp. Upon his release, he contacted with the top al-Qaeda leadership. Later, he formed the Islamic State. His ability in bringing different groups on opposition under one umbrella, coupled by his religious knowledge, helped al-Baghdadi become the Supreme Leader of the newly-formed outfit! Many members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and former Iraqi military personnel joined the IS, as they accepted his leadership. Michael Stephens – the Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of RUSI Qatar, and a specialist in Gulf Security – said that he knew very well how to use former intelligence officers of Saddam Hussein!

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In April 2010, al-Baghdadi was declared the new Emir. Till then, the IS maintained close ties with al-Qaeda. After the US forces gunned down Osama bin Laden on May 2¸ 2011 in Abbottabad (Pakistan), Ayman al-Zawahiri took charge of al-Qaeda. The change in leadership had a great impact on the outfit in Iraq and Syria, as they lost many of their bases in these two countries. The scenario allowed the IS to take control of those areas. The presence of another terror group ‘al-Nusra’ in Syria created trouble between the IS and al-Qaeda. The Nusra leaders wanted to continue the armed struggle against the Syrian Government, while al-Baghdadi planned to set up a Caliphate there and to introduce strict religious laws in the occupied areas. Then, the al-Qaeda snapped its ties with the IS, and backed al-Nusra. The move ultimately helped al-Baghdadi increase the influence of his outfit in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

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The IS militants seized various areas of Iraq and Syria at a fast pace. They captured Mosul, the second biggest Iraqi city, in 2014, and al-Baghdadi declared himself as the Caliph. Under his leadership, the IS triggered a series of atrocities… they not only committed genocide, but also reportedly tortured innocent people in a brutal way. The IS mainly targeted the minority communities, like the Yazidi. They also captured a number of oil fields, banks and other government properties.

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Time and again, the Global Media published the news of al-Baghdadi’s death. And each and every time, the IS released video of its leader delivering speech from the balcony of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. On October 27 morning, US President Donald Trump confirmed al-Baghdadi’s death. According to President Trump, al-Baghdadi – after being cornered in a tunnel by the American defence personnel and military dogs – died by self-detonating a suicide vest, killing three young children, possibly his own as well, on October 26. He also mentioned that the US Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) Delta Force had conducted the raid through air space controlled by Russia and Turkey into the rebel-held Idlib Province of Syria on the border with Turkey to capture al-Baghdadi!

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Continuous international military operations and airstrikes have reduced the IS’ strength in recent times. The US, Russian and other forces recaptured many of the IS bases in the last three months, prompting al-Baghdadi to change his hideouts, repeatedly. However, he failed to survive, this time…

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After so many years depicting deaths and destruction to the world (during these reigns of terror), we seemingly have come back to the basic question that arose from here: Will the deaths of Osama bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, and their successors make the world a better and safer place to live in?

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