President Donald Trump has formally announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, is dead from suicide. The infamous terrorist reportedly detonated an explosive vest on Saturday night as U.S. Special Forces raided a compound in the Syrian Province of Idlib.
Along with obliterating the ISIS figurehead, the blast also killed three children, according to the U.S. government.
“Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.”
Oddly, this is not the first instance in which al-Baghdadi was reportedly killed or severely wounded over the years—and it may not be the last.
Iraqi officials first reported his death in May 2007. According to a CNN report, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said it was not known who Baghdadi was or if he even existed, and the Islamic State denied al-Baghdadi had been killed.
Two months later, military spokesperson Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner told a news conference that al-Baghdadi did not exist at all, Reuters reported. According to Bergner’s sources, the leader of ISIS was given an Iraqi name (Baghdadi, meaning “from Baghdad”) so the group’s foreign influence and leadership could be masked from its followers.
Reuters reported in 2009 that Iraqi forces had captured al-Baghdadi, something ISIS denied. He was then reported dead by then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in April 2010, following an airstrike U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden referred to as a “potentially devastating blow.”
Baghdadi was once again reported at large in Iraq until Iraqi officials told Al-Jazeera they had again arrested Baghdadi in December 2012.
Casting further doubt on al-Baghdadi’s existence, the ISIS leader rarely showed his face on camera and in 2014, he made his one known public appearance, according to the Independent.
Then in November 2014, somehow managing to evade his arrest, al-Baghdadi was reported “critically wounded” in an airstrike. Just five months later, he was “seriously wounded” in another air strike in April 2015. There are further reports that Baghdadi was killed in 2016, as well.
In May of 2017, the ISIS leader was also reportedly killed in Syria by Russian airstrikes, according to the Russian Defense Ministry and Syrian state television.
Less than a year later, a senior Iraqi official stated that al-Baghdadi was severely wounded in an air raid in Northwestern Syria in February 2018. The Iraqi official added that the ISIS leader suffers from “injuries, diabetes and fractures to the body and legs that prevent him from walking without assistance.”
More recently, al-Baghdadi was allegedly shown in an 18-minute long video released by an Islamic State media group in April of 2019. Various audio messages that were reportedly from al-Baghdadi have been released through the years, with the last being in 2019. However, the authenticity of those messages were not all verified, according the the BBC.
“Days later, the Pentagon confirmed that Baghdadi was only in U.S. custody for 10 months, from February to December 2004. The Department of Defense told the fact-checking website PunditFact in a statement that Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca. ‘A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.’”
Some have even reported that al-Baghdadi was in U.S. custody in 2009, though Politifact cast doubt on this particular claim after the Defense Department was asked to confirm the story and clarified that he was released in 2004, not 2009.
The media and government has obviously created a cycle of kill-capture-injure of a single person all while the general public has never seen more than brief snippets of the apparently immortal boogeyman.
The al-Baghdadi narrative makes Orwell’s 1984 look tame in comparison and, if history is any indicator, this is not the last time we’ve heard from al-Baghdadi.
A timeline of the al-Baghdadi narrative:
- 2004 – Al-Baghdadi was in U.S. custody
- 2007 – Iraqi officials report the death of al-Baghdadi
- 2007 – U.S. Major General William Caldwell said it was not known who al-Baghdadi was or if he even existed
- 2007 – Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner told a news conference that al-Baghdadi did not exist at all
- 2009 – Reuters reports that Iraqi forces had captured al-Baghdadi
- 2010 – Al-Baghdadi is reported dead by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki from an airstrike
- 2012 – Al-Baghdadi is captured in Iraq
- 2014 – Al-Baghdadi made his only alleged public appearance in Mosul in June
- 2014 – Al-Baghdadi is reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike in September
- 2014 – Al-Baghdadi is ‘critically wounded‘ from air strikes near Mosul in November
- 2015 – Al-Baghdadi is once again ‘seriously wounded‘ from a U.S. air strike near Nineveh
- 2016 – Al-Baghdadi is reportedly killed again by coalition air strikes in Raqqa
- 2017 – Al-Baghdadi is wounded from an airstrike and has to relinquish control of ISIS for five months
- 2017 – Al-Baghdadi is killed yet again by Russian airstrikes in Syria
- 2018 – Al-Baghdadi is ‘severely wounded‘ in an air raid
- 2019 – Al-Baghdadi allegedly appears in a video released by an Islamic State media group
- 2019 – Al-Baghdadi kills himself during U.S. raid
The Russian military has dismissed Trump’s al-Baghdadi speech as propaganda, while Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, declared that the U.S. had simply destroyed its “own creature.”