Following a report in The Guardian alleging that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, had been seriously wounded in a U.S. airstrike in March (a claim that has not been supported by the Pentagon), the Iraqi official who was the source of this story tells Newsweek that ISIS is now under the temporary control of a former Iraqi physics teacher in Mosul: Speaking to Newsweek, Dr Hisham al Hashimi, the Iraqi government adviser, confirmed that Abu Alaa Afri, the self-proclaimed caliph’s deputy and a former physics teacher, has now been installed as the stand-in leader of the terror group in Baghdadi’s absence.
“After Baghdadi’s wounding, he [Afri] has begun to head up Daesh [arabic term for ISIS] with the help of officials responsible for other portfolios,” confirms Hashimi. “He will be the leader of Daesh if Baghdadi dies.”
It is believed that Afri is located in the al-Hadar region of the city of Mosul. He has risen through the ranks of the group, becoming more prominent in the eyes of the group’s leadership and even more important than Baghdadi himself, Hashimi claims.
“Yes – more important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma,” says the adviser when asked if Afri is now more important within the group than Baghdadi. “All the leaders of Daesh find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration.”
Little is known about Afri, also known as Haji Iman, but Hashimi reveals some details about the previous life of Baghdadi’s mysterious right-hand man.
“He was a physics teacher in Tal Afar [northwestern Iraqi city] in Nineveh, and has dozens of publications and religious (shariah) studies of his own,” he says. “He is a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri [prominent jihadi scholar].”
ISIS experts support Hashimi’s claim that Afri is the rising star within the terror group. Hassan Hassan, Middle East analyst and co-author of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, says that Afri is “one of its most important players”. [Continue reading…]