The rise and fall of ISIS ‘caliphate’

The rise and fall of ISIS ‘caliphate’
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (AP)
Cairo, Mar 24 (IANS) | Publish Date: 3/24/2019 12:17:03 PM IST

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became on one of the world’s most-wanted terrorist leaders when he proclaimed the Islamic State terror organization’s so-called caliphate from a pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014.

At that time, the IS had conquered half of Syria and around a third of Iraq and had under its control not only the historic city of Mosul, where it filled a power vacuum left by an Iraqi army in retreat, but also Raqqa across the border in Syria. reports Efe news.

Al-Baghdadi had aspirations to export the holy war to every corner of the world but now, almost five years later, the so-called caliphate lies in ruins. 

Kurdish-led forces announced the capture of the last IS outpost in southeast Syria on Saturday, although remnants of the group may persist in deserted regions of Iraq and Syria.

The ruthless leader of the extremist group oversaw the murder of thousands of civilians in the name of religion. By harnessing barbaric punishments, the IS imposed a theocratic regime over its de facto state drawing on medieval customs inspired by the early interpretations of Islam. 

Al-Baghdadi’s reign of terror will be especially remembered the bloodthirsty methods his acolytes used in their slick and professional propaganda videos of warfare, beheadings, torture and executions. 

The high-quality production of IS media contributed to the widespread dissemination of the organization’s crimes and radical beliefs. 

The elusive Al-Baghdadi, who has been presumed killed on several occasions, only made one public recording - the video from al-Nuri Mosque, where he proclaimed himself caliph, a title historically endowed only to those who belong to the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Dressed in black robes, identifying himself with Muhammad’s lineage, and with a long beard, the IS leader took on the megalomaniac nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, with which he wanted to associate himself with the Quraysh, an Arab tribe associated with Muhammad, as well as Abu Bakr, the first caliph. Born in Samara, north of Baghdad in 1971, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri, al-Baghdadi’s given name, studied Islamic theology at Baghdad University and became a preacher for several years before joining the armed resistance against the United States invasion under the umbrella of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. 

During that period, he was arrested and imprisoned for four years in the US-administered Bucca detention camp. He later rejoined the armed struggle.

In 2010, by when he had already adopted his more famous pseudonym, he ascended to the head of the terror group then known as the Islamic State of Iraq. 

He displayed seemingly limitless ambition, which led him into a dispute with Osama bin Laden’s heir in Al Qaeda, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom al-Baghdadi called “a pacifist”.

The rupture between the two occurred in April 2013 when al-Baghdadi announced the merger between his group and an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which gave birth to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

This decision, which was not authorized by al-Zawahiri, led to his total disengagement with Al Qaeda in January 2014. His military successes in Syria were followed by a dizzying expansion through Iraq, where the extremists made it to the gates of Baghdad thanks to a dishevelled Iraqi Army. 

In the blink of an eye, al-Baghdadi came to dominate a vast territory. The so-called caliphate functioned as a de facto state, with its own institutions and mint. 

It became a magnet for extremists across the world and inspired a slew of deadly terror attacks from Europe to southeast Asia. 

In Syria and Iraq, al-Baghdadi’s men decimated Christian and Yazidi minorities and murdered and tortured thousands of Muslims who refused to bend to their radical interpretation of the Quran. 

Since the founding of the so-called caliphate, al-Baghdadi has remained largely silent and has only sent out a few speeches in audio messages. 

The most recent proof of his existence came on August 22 when the IS broadcast a 54-minute recording of their rarely-seen leader, although the authenticity of that message could not be verified. 

Abul-Hasan Al Muhajir, the IS spokesman, shared an alleged recording of al-Baghdadi on March 18 in which he insisted the so-called caliphate lived on.

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