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FILE PHOTO: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (REUTERS)

Opinion | What, Baghdadi killed again?

Al-Baghdadi’s declaration was met with varying degrees of delight, derision and disgust among most adherents of Islam

So, has “something big just happened", as US President Donald Trump tweeted? As reported by CNN, US Defense department sources claim that Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a US swoop on a location in northwest Syria near the Turkish border. Since earlier reports of his death turned out to be vastly exaggerated, it’s entirely fair if the media waits for confirmation of the news. This would require a DNA test, goes the word that has been put out, since Al-Baghdadi is said to have blown himself up with a suicide vest on being trapped. Dramatic videos are on air as well, but no close-ups so far.

Al-Baghdadi was (or is) to the US War on Terror what Osama bin Laden once was: the leader of an Islamist menace hellbent on deploying terror to secure—or reintate, in Al-Qaeda and IS propaganda—a so-called “global caliphate". A little over five years ago, in a heady act of megalomania, this former Al-Qaeda chieftain had proclaimed himself the worldwide caliph at Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque in Iraq, a country laid waste by the US after 9/11 back in 2001.

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Al-Baghdadi’s declaration was met with varying degrees of delight, derision and disgust among most adherents of Islam, arguably, with opinion shifting sharply towards the latter as the IS’s lack of principles and record of brutality got exposed. The 2014 fall of Mosul to the IS had marked the man’s rise to notoriety, and he had (or has) been on the run since the town’s recapture two years ago by US-backed Iraqi forces. The IS, which scared the world with its recruits in Europe, has been a shadow of former self since then. Area under its control has shrunk, its army is just a ragtag force, and its appeal to radicalized Muslims has fallen, by most accounts.

With Bin Laden, the US was sure it did not want his grave marked at all. If it turns out that Al-Baghdadi did commit suicide, and it’s not fake news—an ‘if’ we need to weigh finely in a post-truth world—then not only would the news indeed be “big" (despite Trump’s tweet), it would mean the civilized world can heave a sigh of relief and hope that the IS threat has been seen off. But in such matters, premature conclusions are unwise. The evidence had better be clear.

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