ISIS Leader Killed in Raid

On October 27th, American helicopters and special forces arrived in a small town in Northwestern Syria. Almost immediately upon landing, American forces came under fire by Islamic State fighters. Civilians fled in their homes as the battle continued. After a few hours, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead. US President, Donald Trump, celebrated by posting tweets about the event and telling stories from the commanders. Who was Baghdadi? Why was he so horrible? And what happened to him?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Baghdadi and ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was formed in 2004, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a former Al-Qaeda militant, splintered off making his own faction. Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike in 2006 and was succeeded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq. Masri was killed in a US-Iraqi joint operation. After his death, Baghdadi took power. 

ISIS at their height 

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the region became heavily destabilized with much of the country thrown into complete anarchy. In 2013 amidst the chaos, ISIS began to push into Syria, capturing large amounts of territory very quickly. In 2014 ISIS took the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah in Iraq, forcing the population of those cities to abide by their extreme version of Islam. ISIS declared the territories to be a Caliphate; a name traditionally given to kingdoms in the middle east during the middle ages. During this period, ISIS began to enslave women as sex servants, execute and torture anyone who did not abide by their rules, and most infamously, behead people and upload it online. ISIS gained notoriety for its brutality, publically performing heinous, violent crimes such as rape, torture, beheadings, and even crucifixions. The main victims of ISIS were Muslims who did not comply with their brand of Islam, ethnic groups such as Kurds, Turks, and Yazidis, and captured enemy soldiers. ISIS also publicly beheaded Christians, journalists, homosexuals, international aid workers, and Jews. In the following years, ISIS would conduct terrorist attacks across Europe and North America. Most infamously, the 2015 Paris attacks killing 150 and the 2016 Brussels bombing in Belgium killing 32. Many lone wolf attacks also occurred, claiming to be by ISIS but evidence of this is limited. ISIS also attacked many historical and sacred sights all over the Muslim world; whatever they did not destroy, they sold to fuel their terror.

Downfall of ISIS

In 2014 the US began training and funding Kurdish groups in Syria as ISIS wished to expand in their territory. In 2015 US President Barack Obama announced the beginning of airstrikes in ISIS strongholds, killing thousands of militants. France, the UK, Germany, Poland, Russia, and various Arab nations began to fight ISIS as well. The US airstrikes and international military forces effectively crippled the ISIS economy and lead to the group’s loss of much of their territory and the deaths of many of their leaders. Baghdadi however, always seemed to slip away.

Baghdadi’s death

Using information from Kurdish informants, American forces were able to track Baghadi to northwestern Syria. The compound where Baghdadi was hiding was leveled, with many militants killed. According to US soldiers and various commanders, Baghdadi himself fled with his children through a network of tunnels. Baghdadi was wearing an explosive vest, killing himself and his children as he was caught. President Donald Trump claimed that Baghdadi “Died like a coward and a dog. Screaming and shouting the whole way.” After clearing the area, forensics proved that Baghdadi was indeed dead. In the coming days, other ISIS leaders would be killed or arrested. Sensitive information was also found in the compound detailing future plans and attacks. Using this victory, Trump began to celebrate.

Trump and the raid

President Donald Trump celebrated by posting a barrage of messages on Twitter while praising his administration and himself for bringing the terrorist to justice.  Trump compared the raid to the 2015 raid that saw the death of the 9/11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden. Ironically, Trump was very vocal in 2015 claiming that Obama should not take credit for Bin Laden’s death but the military should. Many celebrated the raid and Trump used the raid as a way to gain more funding for his 2020 reelection campaign. The success of the raid is also thought to alleviate the backlash from the public after the withdrawal of support for Kurdish allies in Syria. 

Future of ISIS

Throughout the past few years, ISIS has been losing power in the region, effectively defeated militarily. Although their leader is dead, they could just as easily replace him as they have with the ones before him. The death of their leader will hurt ISIS, but not destroy them. The organization may be in the process of going underground, or may even splinter off forming new groups, as ISIS originally did with Al Qaeda. No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain, the world is certainly a better place without Baghdadi.

Sources

Engel, R., & Arkin, D. (2019, October 28). Kurdish informant provided key intel in operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/kurdish-source-provided-key-intel-operation-killed-isis-leader-abu-n1072921.

History.com Editors. (2017, July 10). ISIS. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/isis.

Hubbard, B., & Shoumali, K. (2019, October 27). Likely Successor to Dead ISIS Leader Also Reported Killed. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/27/world/middleeast/al-baghdadi-successor-reported-killed.html.

Leary, A., & Lucey, C. (2019, October 28). Trump Campaign Looks to Capitalize on Baghdadi Raid. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-campaign-looks-to-capitalize-on-baghdadi-raid-11572295811.

McPherson, J. (n.d.). Marlins’ Brian Moran talks MLB debut, first win. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article234779757.html.

Riechmann, D. (2019, October 27). The tip, the raid, the reveal: The takedown of al-Baghdadi. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.apnews.com/89e8716887514b95af5fea38d604ee30.

Rubin, A. J., & Shoumali, K. (2019, October 28). Survivors of ISIS Carnage Feel Little Relief at al-Baghdadis Death. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/28/world/middleeast/isis-al-baghdadi-death.html.