Days after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader was reported to have been killed or injured in a U.S-led attack this week, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi resurfaced, releasing a video tape calling upon Allah to destroy the U.S and its allies. He said efforts to weaken the movement have not succeeded. He criticized President Obama’s decision to send 1,500 troops to Iraq to assist those fighting his group.
The U.S Intelligence is analyzing the audio to determine its authenticity. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said no new information was available on Al-Baghdadi’s condition following reports early this week that he was killed or wounded in the attack.
U.S defense secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress this week that the there is a need to cut off money supply to ISIS. He said ISIS makes an estimated $1 million in stolen oil, in addition to other funding avenues. The U.S plans to spend $5.5 billion to eradicate the threat posed by the group.
Al-Baghdadi is reported to be a good fundraiser and a ruthless killer. His capture of Mosul, a city rich in oil production located at the intersection of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, provides him with funds to run his organization. He has transformed ISIS in to a billion-dollar empire that profits from oil sales coming from oil wells captured in Iraq. The United States has offered $10 million for his capture.
ISIS was formed in April 2013 as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq. While it has at times been in conflict with Al Qaeda and other groups fighting the Syrian regime, it has grown in size, and is believed to have attracted fighters from other countries. Intelligence officials suspect that the man who beheaded American James Foley is a British national. Linguistics who analyzed the audio that was posted on the internet after the beheading indicated that he may have grown up in Southern England or London. ISIS has said that foreign fighters come from the UK, France, and Germany, as well as from other countries in the Arab region.
In September, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry told MSNBC that there are more than 100 Americans fighting alongside ISIS and other groups in Iraq and Syria. The influx of foreign fighters appear to fortify Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s belief that he has an international appeal, and can afford to threaten the U.S and its allies in to abandoning the effort to eliminate his organization.
Al Baghdadi was born in 1971 in Sammarra. His biography, circulated by ISIS, indicates he holds a doctorate degree from the Islamic University in Baghdad. He is believed to have been an Islamic preacher when the U.S-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003. He is reported to have formed a militant group that remained obscure during this period. He has kept a low profile for fear of being killed like his predecessors after their movements became known.
He was captured by American forces in 2005 and spent four years at Bucca camp in Southern Iraq. According to Al –Monitor, he met and trained with other al-Qaeda fighters during his stay at the camp. Richard Barrett, a former British foreign intelligence official, said Al Baghdadi has been based on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan for the last ten years.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s threat to fight the U.S and its allies appears to complicate the involvement of the international community in the crisis in the region. The U.S and its allies appear to be torn between fighting ISIS and holding Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad accountable for the suffering he has caused those opposed to his rule.
By Benedicto Ateku