Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city - REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV
CAIRO – 11 July 2017: Reports circulated on Tuesday about the death of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by Iraqi and Syrian media outlets; however, the United States Department of Defense has yet to confirm the news.
Early on Tuesday, Iraq’s Al-Sumaria channel reported the death of al-Baghdadi and that IS will shortly announce his successor. The channel reported the news without citing sources inside IS.
Al-Baghdadi’s death has been rumored several times, but this time it was viewed as fact, due to the recent liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces. In June, the Russian Defense Ministry said that there is information indicating the death of al-Baghdadi by one of the Russian air force raids on the Syrian city of Raqqa, but this was later denied.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced two days ago that their armed forces have completely defeated IS in Mosul after eight months of urban warfare, bringing an end to three years of jihadist rule in the city.
Al-Baghdadi’s death was reported without mentioning how he was killed or when this happened.
Concerning the future of IS without al-Baghdadi, Egypt Today spoke to experts who were skeptical of the news.
A researcher in Islamic movements and international terrorism, Moneer Adib, said that he doubts al-Baghdadi is dead. He added that if the news were to be true, the group would suffer from losing their leader.
Adib said al-Baghdadi’s death will have a negative impact on the spirits of his followers and the group’s geographical distribution.
Regarding their battle in Raqqa, the researcher said he believes they would definitely lose the city, because “they will not be ready to continue fighting without leadership.”
Adib also said that IS succeeded in establishing a state, which is unprecedented for any jihadist group, and even al-Qaeda itself was not able to perform such a thing.
“This group is different, because it chose to have a central leadership to implement their goals,” Adib added.
“Al-Baghdadi’s strategy and personality is unique, as he is different from Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, and also Ayman Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda,” Adib said. “Those two leaders constantly made public appearances and led their fighters in battle, contrary to al-Baghdadi, who never led any fight and remained mostly in hiding.”
In 2014, al-Baghdadi declared himself the Caliph of a jihadist state ruling over millions of inhabitants and has not been seen in public since.
Moreover, Mohamed Al-Oraby, the head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Committee of Foreign Affairs, suggested that if the death of al-Baghdadi is proven, the group will continue regardless. He added that their most recent defeats would likely force IS to shift their focus to spreading in Africa.
Adib also argued that the group could be planning to refocus their efforts and strengthen their presence in North Sinai, adding that the Sinai is a very advantageous geographic location because of its proximity to Gaza and the mountainous terrain. The mountains provide numerous hiding spots for the group and the proximity to Gaza can facilitate their funding.
However, Adib doubted that this group would succeed in relocating to Sinai due to Egypt’s rigorous security plan.
The jihadist group has added a new level of brutality to the phenomenon of radical Islam, having become notorious for its beheadings, abductions and mass killings in the name of religion.
The Islamic State’s main goal is the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, governed by Sharia, or Islamic law.
Not only has IS created and added to the chaos and violence in Iraq, Syria and Libya, it has also orchestrated major attacks in Europe and has been linked to terrorist strikes in Australia, Canada and the U.S. Most recently, it claimed the bloody attacks in Egypt, which targeted Coptic Christians.