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Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi
Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla

When ISIS’ new leader replaced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019, few knew anything about him. Despite becoming one of the world’s most influential terrorists, the only clues about his life came from a single eight-minute audio recording announcing his appointment. The man set to take over after the assassination of ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named as al-Qurayshi, meaning he was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who was of the Quraysh tribe.

Paul Cruickshank, a prominent scholar wrote at the time: “Nobody – and I mean nobody outside a likely very small circle within ISIS – have any idea who their new leader ‘Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi’ is.”

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi is a nom de guerre for Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla.

Declassified documents shed light on al-Mawla’s educational background and his rise to ISIS leader. They reveal al-Mawla joined ISIS’ predecessor organization, Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), in 2007 and quickly rose through its ranks during a period of conflict as American and Iraqi security forces sought to stop ISI from expanding.

The United States on 25 June 2020 doubled to $10 million its reward for the capture of ISIS leader Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawla, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced. The US had already offered $5 million for al-Mawla before he was identified as the successor to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US commandos in an October raid in Syria. “This reward is an important moment in our fight against ISIS and its branches and networks around the world. As ISIS is defeated on the battlefield, we are determined to identify and find the group’s leaders so that the global coalition of nations fighting to defeat ISIS can continue to destroy ISIS remnants and thwart its global ambitions,” said the US State Department in its statement.

Al-Mawla was born in the Iraqi city of Mosul to a Turkmen family, making him one of the few non-Arabs to ascend the ranks of ISIS group, which at its height ruled vast parts of Iraq and Syria and drew volunteers from the West. Born in 1976, al-Mawla, also known as Hajji Abdallah, is a scholar in Islamic law who issued edicts to justify the persecution of the Yazidi minority, a campaign that the United Nations has described as genocide. The terrorists killed thousands of Yazidis, and abducted and enslaved thousands more women and girls as they rampaged across the Middle East.

The published documents – Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) – are records of what al-Mawla told American forces during his time in US custody beginning in January 2008. Al-Mawla told interrogators he crossed paths with other senior ISI members, that he served as a private in the Iraqi Army, and completed a master’s degree in Islamic Studies from Mosul University in January 2007 that eventually led him to secure a position teaching classes on Islamic law to ISI members.

He said he was eventually appointed general sharia leader for Mosul in July 2007, ensuring ISIS’ strict interpretation of Islam was enforced in the city. Just three months later, he was be appointed deputy leader of Mosul; though he was demoted a month later. Other reports connect him to the genocide of the Yazidis, an ethnic and religious minority group, in Iraq in 2014.

But there is still much that is unknown, including what al-Mawla was up to between being discharged from the army in 2002 and joining ISI in 2007. Only three out of over 66 TIRs were declassified, and researchers hope that further rounds of document releases will help paint a more complete picture of one of the world’s most notorious terrorists.

During interrogations with Americans, al-Mawla gave up at least 88 members and affiliates of the global terror network, leading one expert to question whether al-Mawla’s loyalties lie to ISIS or to himself. “If you look at the details that are provided here, and the level of individuals against which those details are provided, it becomes hard to look the other way and say he was still being loyal to the organization,” said Dr. Daniel Milton, the director of research at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center that received the TIRs for study.

In earlier interrogations, the current ISIS leader al-Mawla tried to distance himself from the organization, claiming he was a Sufi, which one expert notes at the time would have been a “death sentence” given the group’s belief that Sufis were heretics. In a discussion of the reports, Cole Bunzel, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said that al-Mawla’s claim “seems like nonsense.”

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Page last modified: 01-10-2020 17:19:59 ZULU