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Abu Alaa al-Afari

Abu Alaa al-AfariOn 22 April 2015 the Guardian reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was seriously wounded in a US coalition airstrike in western Iraq on 18 March 2015, resulting in injuries which rendered him incapable of carrying out his duties as caliph. There had previously been two reports, in November and December 2014, of Baghdadi being wounded, though neither proved correct. Baghdadis deputy, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, and the head of the groups military operations in Iraq were both killed in early December 2014.

The Islamic States temporary leader was a former Iraqi physics teacher located in the countrys second-biggest city, Mosul. Abu Alaa Afri, the caliphs deputy and a former physics teacher, was installed as the stand-in leader of the group in Baghdadis absence.

Little is known of Afri, also known as Haji Iman. He was a physics teacher in Tal Afar, a northwestern Iraqi city in Nineveh, and has dozens of publications and religious studies. He is a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri, a prominent jihadi scholar.

Dr Hisham al Hashimi, a regional adviser to the Iraqi government, described al-Afri [meaning 'face of the earth'] as "a charismatic man who is very well known in the organisation. I would say he is more important than Al Baghdadi". Hashimi described him as smarter, and with better relationships than Baghdadi himself. Hashimi said "After al-Baghdadi's wounding, he [al-Afri] has begun to head up Daesh [the Arabic term for ISIS] with the help of officials responsible for other portfolios. He will be the leader of Daesh if al-Baghdadi dies."

By one account Abu Alaa Afri seemed to have become more prominent in lae 2014, especially after the group began to suffer tactical defeats in Syria and Iraq since December 2014. He replaced ISISs Syria governor Abu Ali al-Anbari as al-Baghdadi's top man after al-Baghdadi became less involved in decision making for security reasons.

Before becoming Baghdadis deputy, Afri was a key coordination link between Baghdadi and his inner circle and also his emirs in different provinces across the caliphate in Syria, Iraq and Libya. It is believed that Afri, when senior al-Qaeda operatives Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in 2010, was Osama bin Ladens preferred choice to become emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq analyst and Research Fellow and Associate Member at the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform, said Afri would not become the caliph. This is partly because Baghdadi has claimed to be a descendant of the Prophet and also to have an Islamic sciences background, both of which Abu Alaa does not seem to have," he said.

On 13 May 2015 Iraq's defense ministry said that a coalition airstrike had killed the Islamic State group's deputy commander, a claim the US military said it could not confirm. The airstrike targeted Abu Alaa al-Afari and others as they met at a mosque in the northern city of Tal Afar, according to a defense ministry statement. He is said to be the second-in-command to Abu Baker al Baghdadi.




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