World

ISIS leader Baghdadi still invisible as most-wanted man

BAGHDAD: Discreet in his youth and invisible as the world's most-wanted man, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi rose through the ranks quietly and patiently to become global jihad's undisputed supremo.

He made his only known public appearance at the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, where on Sunday Iraq declared victory over Baghdadi's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

Baghdadi, 46, who is nicknamed "The Ghost", has not been seen in public since his 2014 visit to the mosque.

He has been rumoured wounded or killed a number of times, but his whereabouts were never confirmed.

Baghdadi, who has a US$25 million (S$34.6 million) bounty on his head, was born Ibrahim Awad al-Badri to a modest family north of Baghdad.

After high school, he moved to the capital to study Islam.

After US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded his own insurgent outfit.

It never carried out major attacks, and he was arrested in February 2004 and detained at the Camp Bucca facility.

The US prison in southern Iraq, which was later dubbed "the University of Jihad", was where he started showing signs of the leader he is now.

He was released at the end of 2004 for lack of evidence.

Iraqi security services arrested him twice subsequently, in 2007 and 2012, but let him go because they did not know who he was.

In 2005, he pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal leader of one of ISIS' many previous incarnations who was killed in 2006. Baghdadi took over from his successor, who was also eliminated, in 2010.

He revived the fortunes of Iraq's struggling Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, turning it into the independent ISIS group, expanding into Syria in 2013 and then launching its sweeping offensive in Iraq in 2014.

He has also been accused of having repeatedly raped girls and women he kept as sex slaves. - AFP

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