What remains of Daesh is yet to acknowledge the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who died in a raid by US forces in northern Syria on Saturday, CNN writes.
At this time, it’s not clear who will succeed him, but a long-time Baghdadi companion and religious scholar would seem to be a leading candidate.
He is known within jihadi circles as Abdallah Qardash, but the U.S. government identifies him as Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla and is thought to have known Baghdadi for at least 15 years. They were both detained at a US-run prison known as Camp Bucca soon after the coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, though it’s unclear if that’s where they first met.
Born in the 1970s, al-Mawla is thought to have been one of the many Baathist officers during Saddam Hussein’s rule to go underground after the U.S. invasion in 2003 and join forces with insurgents, CNN informs.
Many of those who were released from Camp Bucca, including Baghdadi and al-Mawla, joined what was then al Qaeda in Iraq, before it rebranded itself into Daesh. The State Department’s profile of al-Mawla described him as “a religious scholar in al Qaeda.”
According to the State Department, he “helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northwest Iraq.”
Much of the Yazidi community lived in an area close to al-Mawla’s hometown of Tal Afar. In 2014, after Daesh had taken Tal Afar and Mosul, the group enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and children and murdered thousands of Yazidi men, actions the United Nations has called a genocide.
As others in the Daesh hierarchy were taken out or died in battle, al-Mawla became a more significant player as one of the group’s leading ideologues, CNN adds.
In August, it was widely reported that the Daesh-affiliated Amaq news agency had announced al-Mawla as Baghdadi’s anointed successor. But the announcement came from a fabricated account and it would certainly not have been Daesh’ modus operandi to issue such a statement.
Later that month, the U.S. added al-Mawla to its Rewards for Justice list, offering up to $5 million for information leading to his capture and saying that “as one of Daesh’ most senior ideologues … he is a potential successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”