The United States President, Donald J. Thrump has announced that the leader of ISIS and self-declared Caliph of over one billion moslems around the globe has died in apparent suicide when his hideout was raided late Saturday by United States special forces led by the United States Army Delta Force following Intelligence report on his hideout in the Idlib Province in Northwestern Syria.
Until this morning, US time, the identity of this High Value Target who detonated an explosive vest Killing himself and his three children, was uncertain until President Thrump confirmed it.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died when United States Special Operations commandos carried out a risky raid in northwestern Syria on Saturday against a senior terrorist leader there, two senior US administration officials said late Saturday.
United States Army commandos from the Army’s elite Delta Force carried out the mission with the C.I.A. providing intelligence and reconnaissance information on the ground.
Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan Jr., as deputy commander of the United States Military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, oversaw the mission, which had been staged for a week before taking place on Saturday.
According to Turkish official sources, Mr. al-Baghdadi arrived at the location of the strike 48 hours before the raid.
Syrian Kurdish forces also claimed on Sunday that they had been involved in the operation. Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish commander, said in a Twitter post, “Successful historical operation due to a joint intelligence work with the United States of America.” Although, he did not elaborate.
A senior US official also confirmed that Kurdish intelligence officials in both Syria and Iraq had helped to locate the man they believed was Mr. al-Baghdadi.
Some analysts had however expressed skepticism that Mr. al-Baghdadi would be hiding in Idlib, in northwest Syria. He was always thought to be hiding in the borderlands between Iraq and Syria in the heart of the Islamic State’s former caliphate, or religious state.
The dominant group in Idlib is a jihadist organization called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was linked to Al Qaeda. They and ISIS are rivals so it was thought to be surprising if Mr. al-Baghdadi was hiding in Idlib. His death has however been confirmed that he indeed died in the Idlib area of Syria. Also, hundreds of ISIS fighters fleeing Iraq and northeastern Syria are believed to be hiding in the northwest, some even joining their former Qaeda rivals, so it was possible Mr. al-Baghdadi found refuge with them.
Mr. al-Baghdadi, the cunning and enigmatic black-clad leader of the Islamic State, transformed a flagging insurgency into a global terrorist network that drew tens of thousands of recruits from 100 countries.
He has been the target of years-long, international manhunt that consumed the intelligence services of at least four different countries, and is believed to have taken extreme security measures, even when meeting with his most-trusted associates. He has been incorrectly reported killed or wounded multiple times.
Based on the antecedent of the United States Military in eliminating terrorist leaders in the region and around the world, make no mistake, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is dead and dead for good. Recall, that United States Military doesn’t announce the death of any high value target until it has carried out a positive DNA identification. Positive DNA identifications were carried out on the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden who was killed in May 2011 by US Special Forces; Ahmed Abdi Godane also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair leader of Somali based al-Shabab who was killed by US drone attack on 1 September 2014; Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq killed June 7, 2006; Anwar al-‘Awlaqī who was killed in US drone strike on September 30, 2011.
Perhaps, our country, Nigeria and our military, the Nigerian Military have a lot to learn here, not to rush to claims of death of high value terrorist targets before positively carrying out DNA identifications on them. In several occasions, the Nigerian Military has announced it has killed the notorious leader of Boko Haram, Abu Mohammed Abubakar bin Mohammed al-Sheikawi or Abubakar Shekau for short, only for him to resurface afterwards to discredit the Nigerian Military claims by releasing videos and audios referencing recent events to prove he’s alive and healthy.
Who is Abu Bakr al-Abaghdadi?
Much of the world first learned of Mr. al-Baghdadi in 2014, when his men overran one-third of Iraq and half of neighboring Syria and declared the territory a caliphate, claiming to revive the Muslim theocracy that ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
At its peak, the group’s black flag flew over major population centers, including the Iraqi city of Mosul, with a population of 1.4 million.
In these territories, the group known variously as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh imposed its violent interpretation of Islam, established administrstive structures, ran banks, operated lucrative oil wells, collected taxes from its over 12 million citizens whom it governed with brutality.
Mr. al-Baghdadi was arrested near the Iraqi city of Falluja at the home of his in-laws in January 2004. The target of the raid was his brother-in-law, who had taken up arms against the American occupation of Iraq. Mr. al-Baghdadi was swept up in the raid, considered little more than a hanger-on at that point. He spent 11 months in a detention center at Camp Bucca.
Some analysts have argued that it was Mr. al-Baghdadi’s time in American custody that radicalized him. But those who were imprisoned alongside him say he was already committed to violence when he entered the sprawling prison camp.
Pentagon records indicate that Mr. al-Baghdadi was released in late 2004, a failure of intelligence that would come to haunt American officials.
For years, he disappeared from view. Then in 2009, security forces recovered a cache of documents in a safe house used by the militants and found the name “Abu Dua” on the group’s personnel list, the nom de guerre Mr. al-Baghdadi was using at the time.
In May 2010, the insurgents announced their new leader: It was Abu Dua, who now introduced himself to the world as “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
There were numerous near-misses in attempts to arrest him. But with each close call, Mr. al-Baghdadi became more circumspect, more obsessed with security and more untrusting. He is believed to have stopped using cellphones over a decade ago, relying exclusively on hand-delivered messages.
In 2014, when he ascended the marbled pulpit of Mosul Grand mosque in Iraq to declare the caliphate, it was the first time a video appeared that showed his face uncovered.
Mr. al-Baghdadi’s reclusiveness fed rumors of his demise, with many news media outlets carrying speculative reports of his death, all of which proved to be untrue. Each time, he resurfaced in audio recordings, thumbing his nose at the world.
The last time Mr. al-Baghdadi appeared on video was in April, when he sent a message that he was still in charge and that his network would continue to launch attacks.
What does his death mean to the fight against ISIS and Terrorism both here in Nigeria and the world at large?
ISIS represents a barbaric insanity. It was therefore a remarkable feat that the United States Military which I believe remains the greatest fighting force on earth to have taken on and brought down the world’s most wanted man. Haven said that, ISIS is an ideology so it doesn’t die because Al-Baghadi is dead. His death while a huge symbolic blow to that ideology but believe it or not, the grievances of Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Syria and other places around the world remain.
To the extent those grieviances remain, their ideology of hate will remain and ISIS will remain a very portent terrorist group.
There’s going to be a second and third order effects of his death so let’s not be under the illusion that ISIS is dead. Symbolically, it’s wounded but believe it or not, we have not seen the end of ISIS.
Even when the man was alive he had little or no control of ISIS administratively or operationally other than occassional release of videos and audios encouraging his members to carry out attacks on targets he considered of interest.
Just like its predecessor, al-Qaeda did not die with the killing of Osama bin Ladin, instead it had spread to several places around the globe where the operated as independent cells, ISIS before now has adopted similar self-preservation strategy. Today, ISIS is in West Africa, Europe, Asia, North Africa and in addition to its home base in the Middle East.
We are yet to see or hear of ISIS.
Bish Johnson is a former United States Army Captain and the Chairman and CEO of SeaBeeS Security Services and Consulting Nigeria Limited.