‘New ISIS leader named as former Saddam Hussein officer Abdullah Qardash’

28 October 2019, 07:47 | Updated: 28 October 2019, 08:47

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a suicide blast during a US raid
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a suicide blast during a US raid. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A new leader of ISIS has been appointed after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it has been reported.

Abdullah Qardash, is believed to have already taken up command of the day-to-day running of ISIS.

Qardash, a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army, was named in August as being the group’s ‘Muslim affairs’ leader.

And a regional intelligence official told Newsweek that he would have taken over Baghdadi’s role after his demise in a US raid.

“Baghdadi was a figurehead. He was not involved in operations or day-to-day," the official said. "All Baghdadi did was say yes or no—no planning."

The scene of the blast in Syria in which al-Baghdadi died
The scene of the blast in Syria in which al-Baghdadi died. Picture: PA

Yesterday Donald Trump confirmed that al-Baghdadi had killed himself in a suicide blast along with three of his children during a US security operation in Syria.

He was chased “down a tunnel” in an US operation in northern Syria, president Trump said.

Baghdadi took three of his young children with him as he tried to flee US forces, but “cornered” and pursued by dogs in a tunnel, he “killed himself along with three of his children,” said the president.

“Mr Trump said: “The US has brought the world’s No1 terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is dead.

“He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless terror organisation anywhere in the world.

“Capturing and killing al Baghdadi has been the top priority of my administration.

“US security forces carried out a dangerous and daring night time raid. The US personnel were incredible. No personnel were lost in the operation.

“A large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him.

“He died running into a dead end tunnel; whimpering crying and screaming all the way.

“11 children were moved out of the house and are uninjured.

“Baghdadi had dragged three of his young children with him. He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He killed himself along with three of his children.

Tests confirmed a positive ID of al Baghdadi, said Mr Trump.

“He spent his last moments “in utter fear, total panic and dread,” Mr Trump said.

“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent and he died in a vicious and violent way."

Boris Johnson tweeted: "The death of Baghdadi is an important moment in our fight against terror but the battle against the evil of Daesh is not yet over. We will work with our coalition partners to bring an end to the murderous, barbaric activities of Daesh once and for all."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi would not be missed.

"Isis is one of the most murderous terrorist organisations of our generation," said the Secretary of State.

"Their leaders have twisted Islam to groom thousands of people into joining their evil cause. I welcome the action that has been taken.

"The world will not miss al-Baghdadi."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "Following the death of Daesh's leader, we must not allow Daesh to glorify someone who actioned such inhumane and abhorrent criminal acts.

"The UK will continue to support efforts to #DefeatDaesh."

Former Head of Counter-Terrorism at the Ministry of Defence Major General Chip Chapman said earlier: “If they've have had the information to get Baghdadi at anytime between July 2014 and now, they would have taken that opportunity because he was number one on the high value target list and absolutely had that $25 million bounty which you talked about.”

"It is good news in that sense. The bad news of course, is that in the last message that he put out he did talk about prioritising the freeing of IS prisoners and he quoted something about breaking down the prison walls which was a slogan they originally used in July '13.

"This is something which is likely to happen because the the policy of withdrawing the support from the Kurds in northern Syria means that there is more chance of these prisoners actually breaking out.

"So you're going to have this sort of revival of IS, IS 2.0 even though IS 1.0 is still there. Although it's not there in a governing capacity anymore."

The strike came amid concerns that a recent American pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

Al Baghdadi led IS for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

He remained among the few IS commanders still at large despite multiple claims in recent years about his death and even as his so-called caliphate dramatically shrank, with many supporters who joined the cause either imprisoned or jailed.

His exhortations were instrumental in inspiring terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and in the United States.

Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaida, al Baghdadi and other IS leaders supported smaller-scale acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prepare for and prevent.

They encouraged jihadists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill where they were, with whatever weapon they had at their disposal.

In the US, multiple extremists have pledged their allegiance to al Baghdadi on social media, including a woman who along with her husband committed a 2015 massacre at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

With a 25 million dollar (£19.5 million) bounty on his head, al Baghdadi had been far less visible in recent years, releasing only sporadic audio recordings, including one just last month in which he called on members of the extremist group to do all they could to free IS detainees and women held in jails and camps.

The purported audio was his first public statement since last April, when he appeared in a video for the first time in five years.

In 2014, he was a black-robed figure delivering a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri, his only known public appearance.

He urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

"It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you," he said in the video.

"I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God."

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