Thursday, 13 February 2014
Exclusive information obtained by Al Arabiya News Channel has revealed the identities of the top field commanders running the Islamist militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The six individuals who have been at the helm of the terror group are from Iraq, Deputy Minister of Iraq’s Interior Ministry Adnan al-Asadi told Al Arabiya in an exclusive interview to be aired on Friday.
At least three of them served in Saddam Hussein’s army while others were previously detained in Iraq and upon their release they joined the war in Syria.
1- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
His real name is Ibrahim al-Badri, also formerly known as Abu Douaa, was a lecturer of Islamic studies and an Imam at mosques in Bagdad and Falluja before he was detained by American forces on June 4, 2004. After his release three years later, he established the “Sunni Army” militia and joined al-Qaeda. He became the group’s third in command following the death of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
*In 2008 al-Baghdadi’s real name was believed to be Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al Zawi, a former officer in the security services.
2- Abu Ayman al-Iraqi
Al-Iraqi is one of the main leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a member of the organization’s military council. He previously worked as a colonel in Iraq’s air defense intelligence under Saddam Hussein, during which time he was nicknamed Abu Muhannad al-Suweidawi. He was detained for three years in 2007. Following his release, he moved to Syria and is currently commanding ISIS fighters in the cities of Edlib, Aleppo and the mountains of Lattakia.
3- Abu Ahmad al-Alwani
A former member of Saddam’s army, al-Alwani is currently a member of the ISIS military council. His real name is Waleed Jassem al-Alwani.
4- Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi
Al-Bilawi was one of the four members of the ISIS military council and former head of the group’s Shura council. Hailing from al-Khalidiya in Iraq’s Anbar province, he was detained on Jan. 27, 2005 in the American military detention center, Camp Bucca. He was later killed in al-Khalidiya, Anbar. His real name was Adnan Ismael Najm.
5- Haji Bakr
Bakr was a former officer in Saddam’s army, charged with handling the development of weapons. He was later imprisoned at Camp Bucca and joined al-Qaeda after his release. Bakr was reportedly the strongest ISIS commander in Syria up until his recent death. His real name was Samir Abd Mouhammad al-Khleifawi.
6- Abu Fatima al-Jaheishi
Al-Jaheishi was initially in charge of the ISIS operations in southern Iraq before he moved to the northern city of Kirkuk. His real name is Ni’ma Abd Nayef al-Jabouri.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had claimed responsibility for a brazen attack on Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons on July 22, 2013 that led to the escape of hundreds of militants, many of whom were members of al-Qaeda.
A government statement pointed to collusion between jail staff and the militants who attacked the jails.
Several months after the incident, questions linger about how a handful of armed men could break into Iraq’s most guarded prisons without the help of the security services working for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a staunch ally of Iran and the Assad’s regime in Syria.
Recent reports have also established links between ISIS and the Syrian regime. According to documents revealed by the Syrian National Coalition, several field commanders of the al-Qaeda affiliate were former military or intelligence officers of the Syrian army.
These commanders have been coordinating military operations with the Assad’s forces, providing them with information about rebel fighters and facilitating the recapture of areas previously controlled by the rebel Free Syrian Army.
Rebel raids on ISIS camps turned out further corroborations on the alleged ties. Similar weapons and ammunition used by the Syrian regime forces were also found at the al-Qaeda camp in Raqqa province, according to opposition sources.
Syrian security identification cards and passports with entry and exit stamps to Iran were also seized during the raids on ISIS camps.
The latest reports came days after U.S. Treasury Department suggested last week that Assad’s ally Iran has allowed al-Qaeda militants to enter Syria.
Who is Abu Omar al Baghdadi?
Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al Zawi, who is better known as Abu Omar al Baghdadi. Image from Talisman’s Gate via al Arabiya.
The identity of Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq, has been called into question after the US military released letters written by senior al Qaeda leaders discussing the state of Iraq and the viability of the terror group’s leadership.
The letters, found on the body of al Qaeda in Iraq’s information minister after a shootout in Baghdad, clearly refer to Baghdadi, the pseudonym for the leader of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq. Baghdadi is greeted in several of the letters, and Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second-in-command, wrote a letter to Baghdadi to provide advice and inquire on the state of the insurgency.
Baghdadi’s true identity has been the source of controversy since the establishment of the Islamic State in 2006. The appointment of Baghdadi as the leader of the Islamic State caused rifts within the Sunni insurgency. Tribal leaders and Iraqi Salafist groups objected to the creation of the Islamic State and the appointment of an anonymous leader.
The US military dropped a bombshell in July 2007 when it stated Baghdadi was in fact a fictitious person created by Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Baghdadi was played by an Iraqi actor named Abu Abdullah al Naima, the military stated. This was confirmed after the capture and interrogation of Khalid Abdul Fatah Da’ud Mahmud Al Mashadani, al Qaeda’s media emir at the time.
“Abu Omar al Baghdadi” from an Islamic State of Iraq propaganda videotape.
The debate over Baghdadi’s identity died down after the July 2007 announcement. Baghdadi continued to release video and audiotapes. But Baghdadi refused to show his face, and the voice continued to match Naima’s, a senior US military intelligence official and a senior US military officer told The Long War Journal.
The US military’s claim that Baghdadi is a fictitious character was challenged in May of this year after Haditha’s police chief identified the man leading al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq.
The Haditha police chief said Baghdadi’s real identity is Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al Zawi. “He was an officer in the security services and was dismissed from the army because of his extremism,” the police chief told al Arabiya television.
Zawi is “a retired police officer from the Haditha Police Department, who worked after retirement as a oil heater repairman in the Anbar town of Haqlaniyah,” according to Nibras Kazimi, an Iraqi scholar at the Hudson Institute wrote in May on his website, Talisman’s Gate. Zawi is able to use the “Baghdadi” pseudonym as he maintains a residence in the Ghazaliya neighborhood in Baghdad.
The US military believes al Qaeda quickly backfilled the position of Baghdadi after the Naima charade was disclosed last year.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq filled in the position with a real individual after Multinational Forces Iraq revealed that Abdullah al Naima was a hired actor,” a senior US military intelligence source told The Long War Journal on the condition of anonymity. The sources confirmed that Zawi is now Baghdadi.
“Hamid al Zawi was one of the few senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders who could meet the criteria of being descended from Hussein that was a key part of Baghdadi’s biography,” the military official said. Tracing lineage back to Hussein Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad, is a requirement for leadership of the Islamic State.