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There is no excuse for any Muslim not to migrate to the Islamic State... joining [its fight] is a duty on every Muslim. We are calling on you either to join or carry weapons [to fight] wherever you are. Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No-one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels.
~ Abu Bakr al-Baghadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghadi (July 28th, 1971 - October 26th, 2019) was an Iraqi-born Militant islamist and Sunni Islam cleric who was the leader of the Salafi jihadist organization ISIL, whom they proclaimed as their caliph. He was considered a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States Government, who were offering a reward of up to $25 million for information or intelligence leading to his capture or death.

Al-Baghadi claimed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, but this has never been definitely proven to be true.

Biography

Early years

Some believe that al-Baghdadi was already an Islamic revolutionary during the rule of Saddam Hussein, but other reports contradict this. He may have been a mosque cleric around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.

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. 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), which became the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda. In 2006, al-Baghdadi became the general supervisor of the ISI's sharia committee and a member of the group's senior consultative council. He would later be captured by American forces and held prisoner at Camp Bucca (and later Abu Ghraib) in 2004, but this did not last long and he would soon be released.

As leader of ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for masterminding large-scale operations, such as the August 28, 2011 mosque suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he directed the ISI to carry out a large number of attacks in a rampage of vengeance. This included a bombing in the city of Hillah in May 2011 that resulted in 24 deaths and 72 injuries, and a wave of suicide attacks in Mosul in August that killed 70 people.

Formation of ISIL

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.) He attempted to integrate the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, into ISIL, but Al-Nusra Front's leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, refused. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri demanded that ISIL be dissolved and that he should keep his group's activities focused in Iraq, but al-Baghadi refused and officially severed his group's connection to Al-Qaeda in February 2014. Shortly afterward, ISIL expelled Al-Nusra Front from the city of Raqqa and established it as their stronghold.

On 29 June 2014, ISIL announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate (a single global authority over all Muslims worldwide.) 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). There has been much debate, especially across the Muslim world, about the legitimacy of these moves.

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 and urged Muslims across the world to immigrate to the new Islamic State.

Since the declaration of ISIL as a caliphate, al-Baghdadi has been directing their operations from various unknown locations. Rumours of his death in various battles and airstrikes have surfaced over the years, but he usually confirms that he is alive and well by releasing propaganda videos. Various news sources have claimed that al-Baghdadi never stays in one place at a time as he continues to sneak back-and-forth across the Iraq-Syria border.

Recent activities

On 14 August 2015, it was reported that he allegedly claimed, as his "wife", American hostage Kayla Mueller and raped her repeatedly. Mueller was later alleged by an ISIL media account to have been killed in an airstrike by anti-ISIL forces in February 2015. However, a former Yazidi sex slave has claimed that Mueller was murdered by ISIL.

On 14 June 2016 several Middle Eastern media outlets claimed that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a US airstrike in Raqqa on 12 June, but this is unconfirmed. It's now confirmed that Baghadi is still alive and are hiding in Mosul as of 1 November 2016, as the Iraq army is going into Mosul to kill or capture him.

On 1 July, the last battle to retake Mosul began and Baghadi's status is still uncertain if he is dead or alive. On 9 July, Mosul were finally liberated from IS occupation  by the Iraq forces and Baghadi's wereabouts are still unknown. On 11 July, Baghadi has been confirmed dead by Iraqi news agency Al Sumaria. However on September 2017 audio recording with Baghadi's voice had been brodcast. The Kurdish counter-terrorism official Lahur Talabany told Reuters he was "99 percent" sure Baghdadi was alive and hiding in Raqqa.

On 29 April 2019, al-Baghdadi was shown in an 18-minute long video released by an Islamic State media group, his first public appearance for almost five years. In the video, al-Baghdadi is shown with an assault rifle mentioning recent events such as the loss of the last ISIL territory in Baghuz Fawqani, the Sri Lanka Easter bombings and the overthrow of Sudanese and Algerian presidents Omar al-Bashir and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, suggesting that the video was filmed around a week before being released.

Death

On October 26, 2019, al-Baghdadi committed suicide by detonating an explosive belt during a raid conducted by U.S. Joint Special Command's Delta Force in the Idlib province of Syria, also killing his three children. His death was confirmed by U.S. President Donald Trump the following morning. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi has since succeeded him as the leader of ISIS, as well as Caliph.

Trivia

  • According to many sources, al-Baghdadi's wife is/was Saja al-Dulaimi. The couple met online and married in 2000. Many sources from Iraq claim that he has at least 2 other wives.
  • He has an 11-year-old son and an alleged 4-6-year-old daughter.
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