Conflict

Al-Baghdadi ISIS Leader Reported Dead in Northern Syria

Syria

There are claims that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in the Idlib Province of Syria following an anti-ISIS operation.

The leader of currently the most infamous terrorist organisation in the world, ISIS, has reportedly died following a US-led operation in the Idlib Province of northern Syria. According to US President Donald Trump, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took his life after he was cornered by US soldiers carrying out the operation, as a result of which other members of ISIS, and other extremist groups in Idlib, were killed. The operation is said to have been carried out by the Delta Force special operations force within the US Army.

Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazlum Kobane, reacted quickly to the announcement of Baghdadi’s death, stated that SDF cooperation with the US brought about intelligence that led to the detection of Baghdadi in the village of Barisha, in Idlib Province. The SDF had been cooperating with the US and the International Coalition against ISIS before the beginning of the US withdrawal from northern Syria.

The military operation also ended up targeting members of the extremist group Hurras al-Din, based in Idlib Province. In addition, the village of Barisha is currently under the military control of Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), known to be a rival extremist group, antagonistic towards ISIS. This raises several questions as to why and how Baghdadi was allowed into Idlib Province and to remain there.

Although the death of Baghdadi has been celebrated as a triumphant moment in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, ISIS networks in Syria and Iraq have been functioning without the leadership of Baghdadi since the dramatic demise of the so-called Islamic State following liberation operations in both countries. The death of Baghdadi, although symbolically significant, is unlikely to prevent ISIS groups scattered across Syria and Iraq from carrying out attacks.

The ISIS threat has recently increased following the launch of the Turkish military operation in northern Syria, rendering the SDF incapable of keeping tight control over prisons and camps where ISIS individuals have been held over the past few months.