The September 11, 2001 attacks were one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, with 2,977 dead and over 6,000 injured. It was carried out by al-Qaeda, a network of Islamic extremists and Jihadists. Osama bin Laden, its founder and master of the 9/11 terrorism, was killed by gunshot as US SEALS finally tracked him down to his Pakistan home nearly ten years following the attacks. The majority of the world population felt relief, witnessing the end of a cruel and barbaric leader, a leader that encouraged bloodshed and death. Although families of the remembered would never be able to retrieve the lives of their loved ones back, the vengeance they sought was satisfied. Al-Qaeda became notorious for that horrifying massacre.
Now, there is ISIS – the bedeviling word of a notoriously negative connotation we’ve all heard somewhere. Contrasting with al-Qaeda in some ideologies, they share a common goal: a global caliphate obtained through destructive conflict. Nevertheless, ISIS is one of the most prominent terrorist organizations in the world, an abbreviation for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Brutal and cult-like, it has distributed videos of executions such as beheadings through online platforms. The United Nations holds ISIS responsible for human rights abuses and genocide, among many others. Its leader, Anu Bakr al-Baghdadi, promoted the unimaginable: executions, massacres, crucifixions, and slavery, to name a few. He embraced violence and is held responsible as the mastermind behind the endless slew of suicide bombings, attacks, and nauseatingly disturbing acts of violence. Following Osama bin Laden’s death, he praised him and sought retaliation for his death.
Since youth, al-Baghdadi devoted himself to cut out a path of radical Islamic practice. In 2004, he was detained but released shortly afterward as a “low level” criminal. In 2010, he became the face of the ISIS caliphate, claiming he was their caliph. Seen only once in public, he has been in hiding from the US for years. His ultimate goal to lure his ISIS followers into hatred and loathing was successful. For so long, the US coveted his fall; President Trump called it “the top national security priority of [his] administration.” The US State Department offered 10 million USD since 2011 for any information on Baghdadi’s location, raising the reward to 25 million in 2017.
At around midnight on October 27, 2019 (local time), the US finally succeeded.
Overnight on October 26, 2019, the US conducted a raid through Russian and Turkish air spaces to capture al-Baghdadi in the outskirts of Syria (Idlib) near Turkey. He was chased down into a dead-end tunnel by US forces and military canines. al-Baghdadi self-detonated his suicide vests to kill himself and two of his children. The Pentagon has stated that a total of six people were killed after refusing to surrender following commands in Arabic. In Trump’s formal press release of the news on Sunday morning, he stated “he died like a dog [and] a coward” and was whimpering and crying in his final moments.
The CIA had planned the raid to hunt down al-Baghdadi since the summer due to information on his location after the interrogation of one of his wives. After President Trump announced the surprise withdrawal of US troops in Syria on October 6, the US rushed to capture al-Baghdadi. With less military backing in Syria, it would have been harder to execute the operation.
In July, al-Baghdadi relocated to Idlib, a rival base (an affiliate of al-Qaeda). American forces monitored the area for three months until his death. He allegedly paid nearly $70,000 for protection of himself and other ISIS fighters. Ultimately, it was not his rival but a very close confidant of his that betrayed him. The informant, whose name has not been disclosed for his safety, released the location of al-Baghdadi as well as stole a pair of his underpants to verify the identity of the man under high surveillance.
This is a milestone in the top priority goal to take down terrorist organizations such as ISIS. The leader of loathing and sickening brutality is finally dead. However, many warn of ISIS’s resurgence and potential revenge. ISIS confirmed al-Baghdadi’s death on Thursday, October 31, and named a successor. The number one replacement for al-Baghdadi was ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir, the only other public figure other than al-Baghdadi from ISIS, who was killed two days before al-Baghdadi’s death in a US airstrike. In an audio message, the organization confirmed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, a widely unknown figure, as the new “caliph” and al-Baghdadi’s successor.