The World’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” is Dead, what next? While the White House celebrates the raid that killed Al-Baghdadi as a success, others find reason for caution
On October 26th, U.S. military helicopters zeroed in a compound in northwest Syria, blew up one of the exterior walls, and sent U.S. fighters inside. A full-out battle began, ending with the world’s most wanted terrorist detonating a suicide vest, killing himself and three children. The next day, President Trump announced that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the militant group the Islamic State, more commonly known as ISIS, had died.
Though not the founder of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi was instrumental in the organization’s destructive success. Coming to power in April of 2010, he managed to take a struggling group of militia fighters and lead them to expand the group’s territory across Syria and Iraq.
As of October 29th, ISIS spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, believed to be the likely successor, has also been killed. Despite these two blows to their leadership, on November 1st a man named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was named the new caliph (a secular and religious leader) of the Islamic State. Very little is known about him, though ISIS seems to be attempting to paint him as a “scholar,” referring to him as such in their public statement. In the coming weeks and months, U.S. intelligence officials will be able to find out more about the new caliph through the interception of communications and the use of inside informants, both methods used to gained intelligence on Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts. After he was publicly named, ISIS members and supporters all over the world declared their allegiance to the new caliph over the internet.
ISIS formed in 2003 in response to the U.S-led invasion of Iraq that happened the same year. The group emerged from the terrorist group al-Qaeda, with their main aim being the creation of a new caliphate across the Middle East. ISIS has been branded a terrorist organization by various governments and international organizations including the United Nations. In 2014, they announced they had formed an international caliphate after gaining large swaths of land adding up to around 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. Al-Baghdadi was declared their new caliph, renamed Caliph Ibrahim. They received considerable backlash from the Muslim community for doing so, because it is believed that only the Muslim community as a whole could name a new caliph. In 2017, ISIS lost its last stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, and in the years since then, nearly all of their territory has been lost.
Al-Baghdadi’s death is unlikely to slow down the terrorist group. While they have been weakening significantly over the years, the death of their leader may serve as a motivator for members of ISIS to commit further atrocities.
In an interview with ABC News, former ISIS fighter Muhammad Hasik predicted that Al-Baghdadi’s death would galvanize the group into further action, including a possible attack on Europe.
“I think now maybe in Europe something is going to happen because many people may be upset about this thing,” Hasik said, adding that “Maybe it is going to become worse.”
ISIS has been faltering for the past few years, watching their numbers and land diminish and their leaders be killed, but despite all this, the group has continued unceasingly with their attacks. President Trump has been keen to sell the raid and Al-Baghdadi’s subsequent death as a complete victory, but it is important to remember that it is unlikely to be the final end for ISIS. Their “Islamic State” has all but disappeared off the map, but many of its members carrying its ideology still remain all over the world.