ISIS’s Al-Baghdadi resurfaces alive and well

by Alexander Mercouris,, The Duran:

ISIS publishes long recording by Al-Baghdadi, refuting Russian claims ISIS leader was killed in an air strike

Conclusive evidence that ISIS’s leader, the man known as Ibrahim Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is still alive despite Russian claims earlier this year that he was killed in a Russian air strike, has appeared in the form of a 46 minute long recording from Al-Baghdadi himself, which must have been made recently – after the date of the air strike in which it was claimed he was killed – since it refers to the Iraqi army’s recapture of Mosul and North Korea’s recent nuclear tests.

Publication of the recording incidentally confirms that Al-Baghdadi’s authority within ISIS is undiminished despite ISIS’s recent defeats, and that within ISIS he continues to be accepted as Islam’s true Caliph and therefore as ISIS’s undisputed leader.

When the Russian claims of Al-Baghdadi’s death originally appeared I was skeptical about them.  I pointed out that within ISIS’s centralised theocratic autocracy the killing of the ‘Caliph’ – ie. of Al-Baghdadi – would be expected to have an immediate and visible impact, of which there was no sign.

Al-Baghdadi’s death has not been confirmed, and the Russian claim so far is only tentative.  The BBC is reporting that ‘chatter’ on Jihadi websites – usually a strong indicator that some important Jihadi figure has been killed – is muted, though that could be more an indication of the lengths ISIS is taking to conceal news of Al-Baghdadi’s death rather than a sign that the news is untrue.

Perhaps a stronger sign that Al-Baghdadi is alive is that there has so far been no visible weakening of ISIS’s resolve.  Though ISIS is everywhere in retreat, its fighters continue to put up a passionate resistance in Mosul, it continues its efforts to storm Deir Ezzor, and its well-oiled propaganda machine, complete with its slick ‘news agency’ Amaq, functions much as before.

That suggests that the central leadership of ISIS is continuing to operate as normal, whereas one would expect if Al-Baghdadi were dead that some signs of disruption would be visible.

I also pointed out that the destruction by ISIS of the Great Mosque of Mosul – the place where Al-Baghdadi originally proclaimed his Caliphate – also provided indirect evidence that Al-Baghdadi was still alive, since it looked like something he had ordered himself.

Almost certainly it was Al-Baghdadi himself who ordered the Great Mosque’s destruction, just as it was almost certainly he who back in October ordered that Mosul be defended rather than handed over to the Iraqi army.

That points to Al-Baghdadi probably being being still alive despite suggestions from the Russians a few days ago that he may have been killed in a Russian air strike.  I say probably because Al-Baghdadi almost certainly gave the order that the Great Mosque be destroyed rather than be allowed to fall into ‘apostate’ hands some time ago, as shown by the carefully planned way its destruction has been carried out.

However even though the order to destroy the Great Mosque was undoubtedly given some time ago, there has to be a question whether the ISIS fighters in Mosul would have acted on the order if Al-Baghdadi was dead.  Though the communications of the remaining ISIS fighters trapped in Mosul with ISIS’s leadership are doubtless sporadic and being monitored, I still think that before taking such a step they would have sought final authorisation from ISIS’s leadership – probably through a coded message – and that this would have required the agreement of Al-Baghdadi himself.

Subsequently, when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on the basis of what it claimed was information it had been provided by sources within ISIS that Al-Baghdadi was dead, I revised my view, and began to think that he might be dead after all.  It now turns out that it was my original skepticism which was right.

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