Since the death of the leader of the Islamic State in October, his successor at the head of the terrorist militia has been puzzled. Now secret services have apparently uncovered the true identity of the new «caliph».
Only days after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an attack by an American special commando in late October, the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) announced a successor. The Sunni extremist group presented a man named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Kuraishi as the new «caliph». However, it quickly became clear that this was a battle name. The true identity of the new IS leader was unknown, and some experts even doubted that there was a real person behind it.
Now, however, the secret services have apparently clarified the true identity of “Caliph” Abu Ibrahim. As reported by the British Guardian, is Baghdadi’s long-time deputy Amir Mohammed Abdulrahman al-Mawli al-Salbi. The newspaper, citing two unnamed intelligence officials, wrote that Salbi was an Islamic legal scholar from the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, who was one of the founders of the extremist group.
Justification for the genocide of the Yazidis
According to the Guardian, Salbi is from the Turkmen ethnic minority and is one of the few non-Arabs in the IS leadership. He studied Islamic law in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and joined the uprising against the Americans after the US invasion. In 2004, he was detained in the infamous Bucca prison in southern Iraq, where he met Baghdadi. Bucca has long been considered the nucleus of IS.
As an Islamic legal scholar, Salbi has achieved a central position in the jihadist militia, writes the Guardian. After Baghdadi proclaimed the “caliphate” of the extremist group in parts of Iraq and Syria by Baghdadi in July 2014, Salbi’s legal opinions justified the genocide of the Yazidis religious minority in northern Iraq. Haji Abdullah, as Salbi is also called, has also managed numerous missions abroad.
Salbi is apparently a man who was previously known as al-Mawla or al-Afri. Before Baghdadi died in a hiding place in the northern Syrian rebel bastion Idlib, he had been considered a possible successor. The U.S. launched one in 2019 Five million dollar reward out on him. Even then he was described as a legal scholar who provided the religious justification for the murder and enslavement of the Yazidis.
No power vacuum
Salbi, who has been the deputy to Baghdadi, is said to have headed the IS military operations since 2014, because Baghdadi lived underground for security reasons. Iraqi expert Pasar Sherko, who named Salbi al-Afri or al-Mawla as the likely successor to Baghdadi in December, expects that he can quickly establish his authority in the organization. His legitimacy also contributed to the fact that Baghdadi himself named him as the successor.
There are also other indications that the transition went smoothly and that the gap in the leadership that had been torn by Baghdadi’s death on October 26 was quickly filled. After the announcement of the new IS leader, media of the terrorist militia published photos showing supporters of IS offshoots in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries in Africa and Asia, such as they swore allegiance to the new “caliph”,
The military action against Baghdadi, which the US has described as an important success in the fight against IS, could therefore have less of an impact on the structure and effectiveness of the organization than initially claimed. It was previously unclear how important Baghdadi’s role was for the group. The Iraqi had only made a public appearance once in July 2014 when he proclaimed the “caliphate” of IS from the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul.
“Caliph” Abu Ibrahim is suspected in Mosul
Later the IS released occasional audio recordings as well a rare video in April 2014, in which Baghdadi, after conquering the last IS bastion Baghuz in eastern Syria, called on his followers to persevere and announced retribution. Baghdadi was declared dead several times, before an American special commando actually tracked him down in a hiding place in northern Syria and he died “like a dog,” as Trump said with obvious satisfaction.
Why Baghdadi hid in a village just a few kilometers from the Turkish border is still unclear. The question remains whether the Turkish secret service was informed of its presence in Idlib. His successor will probably remain in the core area of the extremist group. According to the “Guardian”, intelligence sources suspect that Salbi alias Caliph “Abu Ibrahim” is hiding somewhere in the Mosul region.