Death of Islamic State leader 'not fatal' to terrorist network: analyst


Posted at Nov 01 2019 06:42 PM | Updated as of Nov 01 2019 08:19 PM

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MANILA - The death of Islamic State (IS) leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was 'not a fatal blow' to the militant network that had terrorized multiple countries, an analyst said.

Nur Aziemah Azman, of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said the IS "does not depend on Baghdadi's existence and leadership."

"I think Islamic State has moved past Baghdadi. The threat of homegrown IS supporters and sympathizers is real, regardless of Baghdadi," Azman told ANC Friday.

Baghdadi, an Iraqi jihadist who rose from obscurity to declare himself "caliph" of all Muslims as the leader of Islamic State, was killed in Idlib in northwestern Syria during a US special forces operation. 

The terror leader killed himself and three of his children by detonating a suicide vest when he was cornered in a tunnel, according to US officials. 

US President Donald Trump confirmed the long-awaited development on Sunday before IS verified it on Thursday.

IS, who had been silent in wake of Baghdadi's death, said they appointed a certain Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as successor, according to their news agency Amaq.

Azman said Quraishi's kind of leadership "remains to be seen" although "he is expected to be charismatic and can inspire supporters and sympathizers."

The analyst echoed state leaders' statements that despite Baghdadi's death, the threat of terrorism is still there.

"We need to remain vigilant in presence of cells and fighters and jihadists," Azman said.

Al-Baghdadi was the world’s most-wanted terrorist, the target of a $25 million bounty from the US government. 

His death followed a years-long, international manhunt that consumed the intelligence services of multiple countries and spanned two US presidential administrations.

Much of the world first learned of Al-Baghdadi in 2014, when his men, over 10,000-strong, took one-third of Iraq and half of neighboring Syria and declared the territory a caliphate, claiming to revive the Muslim theocracy that ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

The move distinguished the Islamic State from al-Qaida, the older Islamic terrorist group under whose yoke al-Baghdadi’s men had operated for nearly a decade in Iraq, before violently breaking away.

It took five years before troops seized in March the last acre of land under Baghdadi’s rule. 

The promise of a physical caliphate electrified tens of thousands of followers, who flocked to Syria to serve his imagined state.

- With reports from Reuters and The New York Times