Will ISIL mysterious ringleader continue to lead through social media?

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Wednesday, 02 July 2014

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), is turning to a new international figure for terrorism, overshadowing al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, while keeping a mysterious identity despite announcing himself as the king (caliph) of the Muslim world.

The notorious leader whose group has never hesitated in showing shocking extremist acts of violence in Syria and Iraq recently announced forming a new government that ignores the region’s modern borders.

He asked every Muslim in the world to pledge loyalty to him as the caliph; yet he has never shown his face or sent a recorded message, as is common among his type of leaders.

There are only two pictures of him that have been surfaced in the media. The most recent one was released on Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

Undated file picture released Jan. 29, 2014, by the official Web site of Iraq’s Interior Ministry claiming to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (Iraqi Interior Ministry via AP)

Baghdadi was believed to be a small commander of anti-American forces in Fallujah during the early 2000s until he was captured and brought to the US detention facility at Camp Bucca in 2005.

He stayed there until 2009, and because of his long stay there, and the fact that he was released and never captured again, has made many to suspect that he was radicalized while he was at the camp.

One military officer at Camp Bucca recalls the day the charming prisoner was released in 2009. He reportedly turned to the New York-native guards and said, “I’ll see you guys in New York.”

Al-Baghdadi has been the driving force behind attacks on Iraqi and US prisons holding al-Qaeda prisoners since 2011.

The US State Department reported in 2013 that al-Baghdadi took personal credit for the 2011 attack on the prison at Abu Ghraib, which freed around 1,000 prisoners.

Recently, as ISIL moved into the large northern Iraq city of Mosul, the group freed what the Washington Post estimates to be 2,000 to 3,000 militants from inside the prison.

“Baghdadi is a ruthless, resilient and ambitious terrorist leader who unfortunately has shown a knack for tactical operations and, it seems, military strategy,” says a US counterterrorism official, according to the Post.

He, who up until now has only spoken trough his spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, says his ISIL group is now called only the “Islamic State” to represent its new official territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border.

He is calling on Muslims around the world to state their allegiance to the group, yet he still hesitates to show his face.

Political analysts and regional experts believe Baghdadi’s mysteriousness can’t last much longer, as it is going to hurt his image as what he calls himself as ‘the caliph of all Muslims’.

While the United States has already offered a $10 million reward for information leading to al-Baghdadi’s capture, his hiding from public can raise serious doubts about his identity, links and powers, an Iraqi security source said on condition of anonymity.

He says Baghdadi has taken an ‘ambitious step’ in announcing that his goals have been achieved because he hasn’t got enough credit to become what some of his followers describe about him becoming ‘the next Bin Laden’.

A US counterterrorism official says “Baghdadi is the unquestioned leader of [ISIS] and relies on a set of trusted lieutenants, but he has empowered local commanders to make decisions and seems to have employed a somewhat decentralized command structure”.

It’s a mob-like approach, with Baghdadi using “brutal methods to terrorize civilian populations” and financing operations with “coercive methods that would be familiar to an organized crime group,” the official explains.

Though the US official describes Baghdadi as a “homegrown terrorist” who has never traveled outside Iraq and Syria, his group has mobilized international social media to boost its cause.

The online journal War on the Rocks this week analyzed a “Twitter storm” on #AllEyesOnISIS.

In a 24-hour period that began Friday, there were 31,500 tweets, with the top 50 tweeters accounting for nearly 20 percent of the volume, or an average of 126 messages per person, the Washington Post writes in a report.

But the question is how long Baghdadi can rule through Twitter and Facebook?

His hiding and peculiarity may have benefited him up until now, depicting him as a powerful leader whose life can be endangered if he is exposed; but if he claims to be ‘the caliph’ he soon needs to show his face, the Iraqi source says.

Rating: 5 Read 1080 times Last modified on Friday, 15 August 2014

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