Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Islamic militant call 'most powerful jihadi leader'

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the powerful leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the powerful leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

For all his power and newfound notoriety, there are only two authenticated photos of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man now called the world's "most powerful jihadi leader." One shows a man with an olive complexion and a round countenance. The other, released by the Iraqi government in January, depicts an unsmiling bearded figure in a black suit. The image is cracked and blurry, as though someone had taken a picture of a picture.

The murkiness of the picture is appropriate. The man who orchestrated the sacking of one of Iraq's most important cities and today controls a nation-size swath of land is a relatively unknown and enigmatic figure.

Much of what is known of Baghdadi's history is unconfirmed.

Several facts, however, are clear: Baghdadi leads the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the group that evolved from the al-Qaida in Iraq organization that U.S. troops once fought. He appears to be a shrewd strategist, a prolific fundraiser and a ruthless killer. The United States has a $10 million bounty on his head.

In just one year of grisly killing, he has in all likelihood surpassed even al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in clout and prestige among Islamist militants.

In 2005, Baghdadi was captured by U.S. forces and spent the next four years as a prisoner in Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. It's also there, reported al-Monitor, that he possibly met and trained with key al-Qaida fighters.

The rise of ISIS under Baghdadi's stewardship has been less about a cult of personality than what one expert told Agence France-Presse signaled a "transnational ideology." This became especially clear after Baghdadi cast off al-Qaida's leadership last June. "I chose the command of God over the command that runs against it in the letter," Baghdadi told Zawahiri, who had tried to bring the rogue commander back into line.

Since then, the power of Baghdadi, who some say may soon establish himself as emir of a new Islamic state, has only grown, as has that of ISIS.

Islamic militant call 'most powerful jihadi leader' 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to


    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter


    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.