The new leader of the Islamic State is the brother of the assassinated Caliph Baghdadi

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The new Islamic State leader, whose appointment was announced on Thursday, is the brother of slain former caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to two Iraqi security officials and a Western security source .

The Islamic State named its new leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi in a recorded audio message released online.

The announcement came weeks after the death last month of Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi, the man who in turn succeeded Baghdadi in 2019 and became the group’s second self-styled caliph. Baghdadi and Quraishi died by blowing themselves up and members of their families in US raids on their hideouts in northern Syria.

Islamic State, successor to the notoriously bloodthirsty Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, has its roots in an Islamist insurgency against US forces after they invaded Iraq and toppled Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 .

The Islamic State in its current form emerged from the chaos of civil war in neighboring Syria over the past decade and took control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014. Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from a mosque of the city of Mosul, in northern Iraq, in 2014 and was himself Caliph of all Muslims.

Islamic State’s brutal rule, during which it killed and executed thousands in the name of its narrow interpretation of Islam, ended in Mosul when Iraqi and international forces defeated the group there in 2017 .

Its thousands of remaining militants have been hiding in recent years mostly in remote territories, but are still able to carry out major insurgency-style attacks.

NEAR BAGDADI HELP

The new leader‘s real name is Juma Awad al-Badri, he is Iraqi and Baghdadi’s older brother, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters on Friday. A Western security official confirmed that the two men were brothers, but did not specify which was the older.

This is the first time this has been revealed since the Islamic State announced the new leader. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Little is known about Badri, but he comes from an inner circle of shadowy, battle-hardened Iraqi jihadists who emerged in the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion.

“Badri is a radical who joined Salafist jihadist groups in 2003 and was known to always accompany Baghdadi as a personal companion and Islamic legal adviser,” one of the Iraqi security officials said.

The official said Badri had long been the head of the Islamic State’s Shura Council, a leadership group that guides strategy and decides succession when a caliph is killed or captured.

Research by the late Iraqi Islamic State expert Hisham al-Hashemi published online in 2020 indicated that Badri was the head of the five-member Shura Council.

The audio recording announcing the new leader said he had been appointed by Quraishi as his successor before his death.

Badri’s nom de guerre, also Quraishi, indicates that, like his brother and predecessor, he is believed to trace his lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, giving him religious influence among his fellow jihadists.

Iraqi security officials and analysts have said the new leader will continue to try to carry out attacks across Iraq and Syria and may have his own view of how those attacks are carried out.

NEW SECURITY THREAT

One of the Iraqi security officials who spoke to Reuters on Friday said Badri had recently crossed the border from Syria, where he was held, into Iraq.

Badri will inherit control of significant financial resources, according to a December report by the United Nations sanctions monitoring team.

“Recent assessments (…) put the group’s reserves at between $25 million and $50 million,” he said, but added that Islamic State is spending more than it earns, relying on “opportunistic extortion, looting and kidnapping for ransom”.

Badri has two other brothers, one of whom has been detained for years by Iraqi security services, the Iraqi security official said. The whereabouts of the other brother are not known, but are believed to be another Islamist radical, he said.

(Reporting by Baghdad Newsroom, editing by William Maclean)

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