July 17, 2014

IRAQ: ISIS Terror Leader Parting Words When Obama Released Him From Iraqi Prison In 2009, "I'll See You Guys In New York."

The New York Daily News
written by Dan Friedman and James Warren
Saturday July 12, 2014

WASHINGTON — Too vicious for even Al Qaeda, he’s emerged as one of the world’s most bloodthirsty terrorists.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a soccer-playing bespectacled religion Ph.D., is the leader of the murderous Islamic State. The jihadist group — better known by its former name, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS — has seized an alarming number of cities across northern Iraq this summer. They’ve shot and beheaded countless Iraqis along the way.

Hardened by conflict and years of captivity, Baghdadi stepped into the world spotlight via a 21-minute video of a surprise sermon he gave a week ago in Mosul, one of the Iraqi cities his fast-moving group has captured.

It was one of the few times the enigmatic terrorist has been seen in public.

But Baghdadi has been on the U.S. radar for almost a decade — and was even in U.S. custody for a time.

In 2011, the U.S. posted a $10 million bounty for help capturing him — an offer drenched in irony.

That’s because in 2005, Baghdadi was arrested by U.S. forces and placed in an American-run detention facility in Iraq, Camp Bucca. The military did not consider him particularly dangerous, and it let him go when the camp closed in 2009.

As he left, he reportedly told guards, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” They did not consider his parting words a threat — just an acknowledgment that many of his captors were reservists from a unit based on Long Island. The camp’s commanding officer told The Daily Beast, “He was a bad dude but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.”

Baghdadi, like the Islamic State, has gained notoriety because he’s combined swift success, vicious brutality, mystery and relentless self-promotion. With blood-drenched social media posts and videos, he vows to target the United States.

Baghdadi is believed to have been born Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarri near the holy Iraqi city of Samarra in 1971, and later adopted a fake name.

He studied Islamic history and gained a doctorate from a Baghdad university in the 1990s. Until the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Baghdadi lived in a rundown neighborhood on the western outskirts of Baghdad and played for a mosque soccer team.

After falling out with mosque leaders, Baghdadi headed to Anbar province, where he teamed up with Sunni opponents of the U.S. occupation.

He joined the radical group Islamic State of Iraq and rose in its ranks as it attacked U.S. and Iraqi government forces with suicide bombings and other violence.

He’s believed to have become the group’s leader after the killing of a predecessor, Abu Omar Baghdadi, who had replaced an infamous Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, upon his his death in a U.S. air strike.

The group was publicly reprimanded by Al Qaeda for its savagery, including its killings of Sunni Muslims it considered betrayers of their religion.

Baghdadi’s group, weakened in Iraq, moved across the border and jumped into Syria’s civil war, creating the Nusra Front to fight the Assad regime. Renamed, it outshone more moderate rebel organizations.

It captured the Syrian city of Raqqa and nearby oil fields, selling oil for money that it used to arm and grow. He thus flouted Al Qaeda’s presumed leader, Ayman Mohammed al-Zawahiri, who had ordered ISIS to stay out of Syria.

In April he announced that “Al Qaeda is no longer the base of jihad,” saying its leaders “have deviated from the correct path.”

That move suggests, say experts, why the differences between the groups are less about ideology than about power and tactics.

His group can make Al Qaeda look like Boy Scouts. They go into towns and cut off people’s hands or behead them and distribute videos of the atrocities.

In a larger sense, “He’s a reflection of the concentration of authority within the jihadi movement,” said Barak Mendelsohn, a political scientist at Haverford College and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Religious scholars and leaders once enjoyed real credibility even in the Islamic insurgent and terrorist movement. But in the “reality TV culture” that’s had impact worldwide, said Mendelsohn, how you capture credibility is now very different.

His ruthlessness is part of his appeal, especially “to ignorant Muslims who will be enthusiastic because he can appeal to the masses by showing success on the ground,” Mendelsohn said.

The surprise appearance last weekend in Mosul, a city once controlled by the U.S. military, was thus both stunning and perhaps predictable.

Via the sermon, he was trying to build further legitimacy. “He can no longer hide and just release messages. It’s a new generation he’s appealing to and a camera is part of the story,” Mendelsohn said.

And he’s doing that at the same time his underlings are being as cut-throat as one can be to achieve their goals.

Yet, even as ISIS gains territory in Iraq, many terrorism experts say it’s overhyped and a beneficiary of the failure of Shiite leaders to appeal to Sunnis.

U.S. intelligence reports say the Islamic State makes up less than 20% of the Sunni rebels in Iraq. “The media is grossly overhyping the rise of ISIS,” said Max Abrahms, a Northeastern University professor who studies terrorist groups. “We are currently looking at the hey-day of this group. Things are only going to go downhill.”

But for the moment, no fighting force has been able to stop him.

CBS New York local news
written by Staff
June 17, 2014

NEW YORK — The new war in Iraq has local terrorism experts on high alert.

The leader of the insurgent group swallowing city after city there has vowed to bring his war to New York City, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has his eye on New York and his intentions are evil.

“We don’t take any threat lightly,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

De Blasio was talking about the latest security concern for the FBI and the NYPD. Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni militant group that is waging a new war in Iraq, had some chilling final words when he walked away from a U.S. detention camp in 2009.

“I’ll see you guys in New York,” he said.

“We’re quite aware of the statements he’s made. We’re quite aware of the growth of this organization and it’s something I talk to (NYPD) Commissioner (Bill) Bratton about regularly,” de Blasio said.

Manny Gomez, a former FBI agent who investigated major terrorism cases, said al-Baghdadi is a man more careful about his public exposure than Osama bin Laden, wearing masks and shunning photographs. He’s become more dangerous with his success in Iraq and his threat to New York City is being taken very seriously.

“This person has proven that he is definitely a threat. He will carry out his promises and he has the resources in which to do so,” Gomez said. “This guy’s on the move. He’s only gaining strength. He’s gaining more resources — vis-Γ -vis weaponry, intelligence backing. His numbers are growing. His financial strength is growing. Success breeds success and this guy, unfortunately for us, has been very successful.”

CBS News’ National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said there’s no timetable for an attack on the U.S., but cautioned there’s also no telling what ISIS will end up looking like going forward.

“I think the grave threat here is that you have the seeds of a new terrorist movement emerging very aggressively,” Zarate said.

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