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Opinion: The Haji Bakr files | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This undated image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website)

If the reports are true, then a key Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader, Haji Bakr, has been killed in Aleppo at the hands of Syrian rebels.

But just who is Haji Bakr?

He is a mysterious figure; some say that he is the mastermind behind the rise of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria and Iraq. Haji Bakr is a bloodthirsty leader, responsible for ISIS’s brutal practices and ruthless actions, which have even been criticized by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri from his mountainous hideout presumed to be somewhere along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border region. The same goes for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, and the Al-Qaeda leadership from the Maghreb to the Gulf: they have all criticized ISIS’s most recent brutal practices.

I have recently been paying attention to a series of leaks that have been trending on Twitter about ISIS and its role in the Syrian conflict under the hashtag #Wikibaghdady.

This is certainly an interesting topic, and these leaks focus particularly on the figure of Haji Bakr, an Iraqi who rose to become a senior member of ISIS and a close aide to Emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the group, despite having no prior history of jihadist activism. Haji Bakr did not fight in Afghanistan or Chechnya or Bosnia as a youth, nor did he have any contact with jihadist figures such as Osama Bin Laden or Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi or others.

I was monitoring the twitter leaks prior to the news of Haji Bakr’s death. These reports contain some shocking news about the man, namely that he was a former army officer and a Ba’athist. The reports claimed that Haji Bakr advocated ISIS’s move to Syria in order to broaden the group’s membership, and that he was responsible for the conflict with the Al-Nusra Front which he viewed as a rebellion against Baghdadi and his own group. The Al-Nusra Front, another Al-Qaeda affiliate, follows the same ideology as ISIS, the only difference is that it gets its support from jihadist leaders in Morocco and the Gulf. As for Haji Bakr, he sent ISIS members to Saudi Arabia, Morocco and some Gulf states, to recruit and rally students to jihad.

So, the #Wikibaghdady leaks are well worth a read.

What is particularly interesting is how a former senior Ba’athist member joined a group that claims to be fighting in the name of God to establish an Islamic state.

This is a factor that further complicates the entire scene. For if it is so easy to join a terrorist jihadist group, and also to rise within its ranks, then surely local or foreign intelligence agencies can easily infiltrate those ranks as well. This, therefore, is something that further raises suspicion about such groups. It is also just as easy, therefore, for people with warped ideology and moralities to join these groups for their own ends, namely sowing greater chaos and violence. The fact of the matter is that this entire phenomenon is like a monstrous hydra, as soon as you cut off one head, two more grow in its place.

These terrorist and jihadist groups are characterized anger and hatred, along with a meager measure of planning and cunning. This is a truly lethal mix.