ISIS leader ‘died like a dog’ in US raid

Baghdadi: Evil mastermind behind 3,670 attacks worldwide last year. © AFP

Does this also spell the death of ISIS? The world’s most wanted man was a powerful figurehead for the terror group. His death is a blow, but experts say ISIS operations will continue unabated.

It was shortly after midnight, in the remote village of Barisha, that residents heard a familiar noise coming from above.

The whir of rotor blades in the darkness signalled a night raid. And, sure enough, within minutes, the sound of thousands of bullets ripped through the inky darkness.

This was no usual firefight. The guards on the ground, with their machine guns, were hugely outgunned by an enemy they had not been expecting.

They were caught by surprise by the crack American team descending upon their high-profile prize — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man.

The fugitive leader of Islamic State blew himself up with three of his children after being cornered by US commandos in a raid in northwest Syria, Donald Trump announced yesterday.

Baghdadi, 48, fled down a tunnel “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was chased by military dogs before detonating a suicide vest, Trump said in a televised address from the White House.

“He was a sick and depraved man and now he’s gone,” Trump told the nation. “He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is a much safer place.”

Could his death, this weekend, spell the real end of ISIS?

Hydra’s head

For ISIS, the death of its founder and ideological figurehead is likely to be a crippling blow but not a fatal one, experts say this morning, because of the organisation’s flexible, decentralised leadership structure. Like the mythological monster Hydra, who grew two heads every time one was chopped off, ISIS has many commanders.

What a pedantic view, others say. This totally misses the point. The essential power of ISIS is its religious mystique. For its followers, it is the army of god that can never be defeated. Not only Baghdadi’s death — but the manner of his death — will shatter the faith of many devotees.

You Decide

  1. Is Donald Trump’s language (“he died like a dog”) inappropriate?

Activities

  1. Imagine you were one of the US commandos on the secret mission to capture or kill Baghdadi. Write a letter home, describing your role and what it was like. Remember not to give away any security details!

Some People Say...

“Under his command ISIS developed a special brand of cruelty, videotaping the murder of western hostages, throwing homosexuals from rooftops, creating a system of sex slavery and burning people alive.”

The Times anonymous editorial

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Baghdadi took command of ISIS in 2010 and declared himself the new caliph of the Sunni Arabs four years later. The world’s most wanted man helped to transform numerous, small jihadist groups into one terrorist army (ISIS) that trampled over Middle Eastern borders.
What do we not know?
What happens next. ISIS retains the power to regroup. It has many affiliates across the globe that could become a springboard for a new style of jihad. As long as there are deep grievances in the Arab world, there will always be the potential for a different version of Baghdadi’s terror brand: an ISIS 3.0.

Word Watch

Barisha
A village in northwestern Syria, administratively part of Harem District. It is situated in the A’la Mountain and is part of an area known as the “Dead Cities”.
Crack
In this case, superior and highly-skilled.
Fugitive
A person in hiding.
Ideological
Describing their political, cultural and religious beliefs.
Figurehead
The head of an organisation, but without real power.
Decentralised
When power is shared across groups or users, so that power doesn’t come from the top.
Pedantic
Overly concerned with minor details and rules.
Devotees
Followers, believers, fans.

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