The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), will deal a severe moral blow to the terrorist organization, analysts said.
Nevertheless, this death will be far from enough to augur the end of the organization, especially after it had morphed into an ideological school with presence across the world, they added.
“The persistence of this terrorist organization will be driven in the coming days by the presence of several financial and military factors,” said Islamist affairs specialist Amr Farouk. “Some of the countries that sponsor the organization will intervene to ensure that it will not die with Baghdadi’s death.”
Baghdadi, 48, blew himself up on October 27 with an explosive vest he wore, together with three children who were in his company, when a special US force attacked him in the northern Syrian village of Barisha, which is part of the northern province of Idlib.
Most of Idlib is under the control of the Turkish army as well as under the control of several al-Qaeda factions backed by Turkey.
US President Donald Trump said a few hours after Baghdadi’s death that the US military had been preparing for hunting Baghdadi down for several weeks, having received valuable intelligence from the Iraqi government and Syria’s Kurds.
Baghdadi, the most dangerous terrorist on earth, given the brutality of his organization, was declared dead several times in the past.
However, he reappeared every now and then to belie reports in this regard and highlight the difficulty of getting rid of a man whose organization had ambitions to expand its caliphate to almost all the world’s corners by beheading people, raping women, and destroying nation states.
Baghdadi, analysts said, must have nominated a successor a long time ago, having already made sure that he would be killed either sooner, or later.
“The ISIS leadership contains a large number of people who can succeed Baghdadi,” said Ahmed Atta, another Islamist affairs specialist.
The ISIS doctrine makes it necessary for the ISIS caliph to be a descendant of Quraysh, a mercantile Arab tribe that historically lived in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, belonged to the same tribe and many Arabs and Muslims take pride in belonging to the tribe of the prophet.
Whether the ISIS Consultative Council, which selects the caliph of the organization, will keep following the same doctrine in selecting the next leader of the terrorist organization remains to be seen in the coming days.
ISIS now has branches. There are expectations that Africa will be the new stronghold of the organization after the loss of all the caliphate’s territories in Iraq and Syria.
Security and economic conditions in some of the countries of the African continent can be a fertile soil for the terrorist organization to take root and grow, especially in the Sahel and Sahara region where national armies lack training and equipment to counter terrorists hardened by years of fighting in countries like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Nonetheless, Baghdadi was a cult figure for the members of his organization and the members of the organizations that swore allegiance to him since 2014.
Some of the same organizations may not swear allegiance to the new ISIS caliph, especially if this caliph is a controversial figure or is someone to whom these organizations have objections.
“This can also open the door wide for cracks within the organization, especially if Baghdadi had not picked a caliph and made his name known to the inner circle of his organization,” said Egyptian political analyst Ali Taha. “These rifts will weaken the organization and herald its end, but this will not be an automatic development following Baghdadi’s death.”