London-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been meeting senior members in the group’s headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa to decide who will replace his spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who was killed in an American airstrike last week.
The Sunday Times Newspaper published a brief list of the candidates to replace Adnani. The main contenders are thought to include Turki al-Binali, 32, from Bahrain, one of the most senior clerics of ISIS, who is believed to have been appointed the group’s religious adviser. He wrote a pamphlet on the legality of raping enslaved Yazidi women.
Another candidate is Abu Luqman, 43, who was the first ruler in Raqqa and oversaw ISIS trade in stolen oil. He has been reported killed several times, including once in an Anti-Terrorism Coalition airstrike and another time stabbed by a Libyan ISIS fighter who objected to his treatment of foreign fighters.
Hani al-Sibai, director of al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies (UK) in London, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Binali can’t be compared to Adnani because he has no impact on the role of militants unlike Adnani who was one of ISIS’ founders. Sibai considered Abu Luqman a stronger competitor because he has a larger group of supporters.
Colin Clarke, a terrorism expert and political scientist at the Rand Corporation, said: “He had logistical and communications expertise, which isn’t easily replicated but learnt through tacit knowledge transfer.”
A U.S. Department of Defense official said that Adnani was not only a spokesman but one of the top ISIS officials who played a major role in a number of attacks in 2015 including those that took place in Paris, Bangladesh and Turkey. Terrorism experts said it is likely that Adnani’s tasks will be distributed to more than one person.
U.S. officials and terrorism experts stated that ISIS still enjoys high flexibility despite the losses and has plans to replace even the highest leaders including Baghdadi in case he was murdered.