The Many Names of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

According to Abu Ahmad, the IS leader has three brothers: Shamsi, Jomaa and Ahmad. “There are serious differences between Sheikh Ibrahim and his brother Shamsi. On several occasions Shamsi objected openly to his brother’s choices, but this didn’t stop him from being detained by US and Iraqi forces many times,” Abu Ahmad said. “Jomaa was a Salafist from the beginning. He was an extremist even when Baghdadi was not yet part of that circle, causing many problems between them. But things are different now. Jomaa is one of his brother’s bodyguards and one of the closest aides to him. His third brother Ahmad caused Baghdadi some problems, and his reputation isn’t that good in regard to financial issues,” he added.

Shamsi is detained at one of the Iraqi intelligence detention facilities to the north of Baghdad and suffers from serious health problems. An official Iraqi security source ruled out the possibility of conducting an interview with him.

In regard to Baghdadi’s time at university, Abu Ahmad said, “Sheikh Ibrahim was a calm person. He used to take part in social activities, but started changing after he was introduced to Dr. Ismail al-Badri, who directed him toward a special path with the Muslim Brotherhood. He became a member of the jihadist Ikhwan [Brotherhood] and a sincere follower of Sayyid Qutb. He quit in 2000 after reaching the conclusion that they [Brotherhood] were people of words and not action.”

Hisham al-Hashimi, the author of “Inside Daesh” and an adviser to the Iraqi government on extremist groups, said Baghdadi became a Salafist in 2003. “He was influenced by Abu Mohammed al-Mufti al-Aali, the man who was seen at that time as the main ideologue of the jihadist groups in Iraq. Baghdadi along with other followers of Abu Mohammed — what was known as the Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a movement — had people in Baghdad and Samarra,” Hashimi said.

Then somewhere near Baghdad I met Abu Omar, a former IS member who was held three years at the Camp Bucca detention center that was managed by the US occupation forces in Iraq near the city of Umm Qasr. The camp was named after Ronald Bucca, an American firefighter who was killed during the 9/11 attacks in New York. “Camp Bucca was a great favor the United States did to the mujahedeen,” Abu Omar, who served his time at Camp Bucca for being a member of al-Qaeda, said. “They provided us with a secure atmosphere, a bed and food, and also allowed books giving us a great opportunity to feed our knowledge with the ideas of Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi and the jihadist ideology. This was under the watchful eye of the American soldiers. New recruits were prepared so that when they were freed they were ticking time bombs.”

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