The Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a New ISIS Leader

Cameron Mays ‘21

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former ISIS leader, was killed October 26 in a northwestern Syrian compound by a US military raid.


al-Baghdadi transformed ISIS from a small group of ragtag fighters to a global terrorist network that attracted thousands of people to Iraq and Syria, and inspired thousands more around the world to carry out their own terrorist attacks. 


He became the leader of al Qaeda in 2010, after years in American custody, and over the course of his rule, became the international face of jihad, an extreme islam ideology which a struggle against enemies of Islam. In 2014, he changed the name of the group to ISIS, as it is known today. The past year has seen the territory of ISIS shrink considerably from about the size of Britain to virtually nothing, which led President Trump to tweet, “We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate”. This is not the case, as many refuted Trump’s message, seeing as ISIS still has a global network of terrorists. Additionally, Trump removed troops from Syria, lessening the pressure on ISIS and giving them a strong chance to come back in the region. 


al-Baghdadi was situated in the city of Idlib, only three miles from the Turkish border, which some analysts found confusing because of the unlikeliness of his chosen location. Not only was he close to the border, but he also had to pass through rebel controlled territory, though arrangements could have easily been made for him to move there safely. 


Special US forces, including Delta Forces, and the Syrian Democratic Forces raided the compound that he was hiding in, and engaged in a shoot-out with ISIS forces before finally storming the compound. al-Baghdadi, wearing a vest filled with explosives, went to a tunnel where he blew himself up. Within minutes, US and the SDF recovered remains and confirmed that it was the ISIS leader.


Even though al-Baghdadi is dead, ISIS is far from defeated, as they have named their new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, and have vowed to continue on with their goal of expanding Islam around the world. Also, ISIS still has an influence in Africa, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and in Europe in addition to the several thousand fighters in Syria and Iraq.


It is hard to tell if ISIS will take a new direction with their new leader, but it is certain that the United States and other free nations around the world will continue to do all they can to bring and end to the ISIS Caliphate.