The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was reportedly injured in an airstrike last month, and the terrorist group is being led by a former physics teacher from Mosul, according to a report this week.
An Iraqi government adviser, Hisham al Hashimi, told Newsweek that al-Baghdadi, the “caliph” of ISIS, known as the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was wounded last March and is currently not overseeing the group’s day-to-day operations.
The current chief of ISIS is Abu Alaa Afri, and he’s become probably the most important figure within the group.
“After Baghdadi’s wounding, he [Afri] has begun to head up Daesh [arabic term for ISIS] with the help of officials responsible for other portfolios,” Hashimi said. “He will be the leader of Daesh if Baghdadi dies.”
It’s believed that Afri is now operating in the al-Hadar region in Mosul.
“Yes–more important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma,” the advisor said. “All the leaders of Daesh find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration.”
There’s not much known about Afri, but a few details were given out by al Hasmimi.
“He was a physics teacher in Tal Afar [northwestern Iraqi city] in Nineveh, and has dozens of publications and religious (shariah) studies of his own,” he said. “He is a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri [prominent jihadi scholar].”
In 2010, after several top al-Qaeda operatives were killed, Afri was Osama bin Laden’s choice to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually laid the groundwork for ISIS in the country. He is also believed to have went to Afghanistan in 1998 before he became a senior member of al-Qaeda.
The report comes days after a former intelligence officer under ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is the mastermind behind ISIS’s rise in northern Syria, according to Der Spiegel.
A man known as Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, was behind a meticulous plan to take over northern Syria using strategies that he employed when he worked under Hussein: Surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping. “What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover,” the report stated.
It added: “It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an ‘Islamic Intelligence State’ — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.”