Michael Webster
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad
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By Michael Webster
February 25, 2015

The origins of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi' is unknown. According to intelligence sources what they now believe is as American forces rolled into the heart of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 to topple Saddam. . Not long after, the country descended into complete anarchy. Saddam and his henchmen went into hiding immediately.

Soon thereafter it was reported al-Baghdadi helped establish the terrorist group Jamaat Jaish Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamaa. Sometime around 2004-2005 al-Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah by U.S. forces, during a sweeping roundup to capture an associate of the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi, the mastermind of Al-Qaeda in Iraq who was responsible for numerous bombings and deaths, was killed by U.S.-led forces in 2006.

Safely behind bars al-Baghdadi' , an al Qaeda-linked point man who was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in Iraq, According to a Pentagon assessment at the time, al-Baghdadi "would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them."

However, the Obama administration decided to shut down the Bucca prison camp and hand over its prisoners to the Iraqi government, including al Baghdadi, in 2009. The Iraqi government later released him. Al Baghadi boasted to the U.S. soldiers who had held him prisoner, "I'll see you in New York."

In his hometown of Samarra, in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad, al-Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri and is sometimes known as Abu Awad or Abu Dua.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi' the mastermind behind ISIS, which now controls a self-proclaimed caliphate in oil rich Iraq and Syria controlling real-estate larger than the state of Texas. Acquaintances of the mastermind behind ISIS, say he grew up studious, pious and calm. He was introverted, without many friends. He had a light beard, and he never hung out in cafés. He had his small circle of friends from his mosque."

Al-Baghdadi's family was not wealthy, but two of his uncles worked for Saddam Hussein's security forces.

ISIS websites indicate that in these early years, al-Baghdadi studied the Koran at Samarra mosques and took courses in Islamic science and the Hadith – the traditions, deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

al-Baghdadi after high school, as a young man coming of age under Saddam's rule, al-Baghdadi served his compulsory military service in the Iraqi army. It was during that time, he learned to use small arms and was schooled in basic military tactics. Some reports stipulate he acquired a Ph.D. in religious studies in while in Baghdad.

According to Newsweek magazine, after his arrest, "al-Baghdadi being detained in Camp Bucca, the facility in southern Iraq, near Umm Qasr, where many former Abu Ghraib detainees were also held. His status was that of a "civilian internee," which meant he was linked to a terrorist group but had not been caught actively engaging in terrorist activities."

The report went on to say the exact amount of time al-Baghdadi spent at Camp Bucca is unclear. Some U.S. military officials who worked at the prison remember al-Baghdadi being there between 2006 and 2007; others say he was there between 2006 and 2009. Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Syrian activist, told Newsweek al-Baghdadi was held between January 2004 and December 2006. Middle East Forum researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi says that al-Baghdadi's activities in 2005 indicate he must have been released in late 2004.

Whether he spent one or two years there, it was a fruitful time for him. Camp Bucca was like a summer camp for ambitious terrorists. Under the eyes of the Americans, the inmates interacted, traded information and battle tactics and made important contacts for the future. They were inspired by the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the success of al-Zarqawi and the discontent among Sunnis. Historian Jeremi Suricalls the prison "virtual terrorist university."

"Camp Bucca was a place where a lot of jihadists got to know each other and a lot of former Baathists radicalized and linked up with Islamic groups," says Aron Lund, editor of the Syria in Crisis website. "Lots and lots of Islamic State leaders passed through here."

The article further points out that Jiyad says it's unlikely al-Baghdadi was an active militant prior to the U.S. invasion, and he believes Camp Bucca was a turning point for al-Baghdadi. "It would have been an opportunity for him to build his new career as an insurgent," he says. One of al-Baghdadi's contacts from his time in Camp Bucca was Taha Sobhi Falaha, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the spokesman for ISIS.

Following his release from Camp Bucca, al-Baghdadi resumed his militant activities. In 2006, an umbrella group of terrorist factions, including Al-Qaeda, formed the Islamic State in Iraq, which al-Baghdadi joined. He was appointed the organization's leader in May 2010.

Government records show from the beginning, the Islamic State in Iraq had vast ambitions and a different agenda from Al-Qaeda. It abandoned the Al-Qaeda flag, choosing a new one.

Media site al-Monitor dates the split from the group's gradual disengagement from Al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and its search for separate funding sources. "Then, in mid-2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [now commonly known as ISIS] and rebelled against the orders of Ayman al-Zawahri, who was the leader of the international Al-Qaeda organization. Al-Zawahri wanted ISIS to be only active in Iraq and have Jabhat al-Nusra be Al-Qaeda's representative in Syria."

One ISIS defector, who spoke to Newsweek using only the name "Hussein," says he was with al-Baghdadi at the tense time of the break with al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda affiliate working inside Syria. He recalls the paranoia and mistrust in those meetings, held somewhere in the nebulous border area of Syria and Turkey. "Al-Baghdadi met with [these] men in a separate room in a trailer near the Turkish border," he says. "He would only introduce himself to top-level commanders. The minor ones, he did not introduce himself to. But what was interesting was that in a large group, no one was sure which person in the room was really him. He wanted it to be confused."

Hussein says al-Baghdadi relied heavily on the advice of the late Haji Bakr, a senior ISIS leader and former Iraqi army officer, who was killed in January 2014. According to Hussein, his death was a major blow to al-Baghdadi. "Haji Bakr polished the image of al-Baghdadi – he was grooming him to be the prince of the Islamic State. But to be honest, Haji Bakr was the real prince of the shadows." Al-Baghdadi still relies on a loyal inner circle of military experts and operational security experts. Many of them are people he met in Camp Bucca.

The release of al Baghadi and other jihadist insurgents from the Bucca prison, coupled with President Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 rather than follow the military's advice to leave a residual force behind, turned the smoldering embers of the once defeated al Qaeda-backed insurgency into a raging out-of-control ISIS. The largest, wealthiest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the world..

© Michael Webster

 

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Michael Webster

Michael Webster's Syndicated Investigative Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136 countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in 136 countries... (more)

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