The main event of the week was the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by an elite force of the US Army in northwestern Syria, near the border with Turkey. The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is undoubtedly a major blow to ISIS since he was a charismatic and authoritative leader who has been a dominant figure in the organization’s leadership.
During the years of ISIS’s existence, Al-Baghdadi was the final arbiter on military, religious and governmental issues, and the dependence of ISIS’s leadership on him was absolute.
In the ITIC’s assessment, following the killing of Al-Baghdadi, ISIS is expected to weaken, but not collapse, since it still possesses important strategic assets. Its principal asset is its Salafist-jihadi ideology, which constitutes a source of attraction. ISIS also has an infrastructure of operatives and supporters in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere around the globe.
A few hours after the killing of Al-Baghdadi, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was also killed. AlMuhajir was ISIS’s spokesman and a close aide to Al-Baghdadi. Al-Muhajir was killed in an airstrike which, according to the commander of the SDF forces, was coordinated between the SDF and the US army. A “senior official” at the US Department of State confirmed the report.
The killing of Al-Muhajir is yet another blow to ISIS at the morale level. In addition, on the practical level, it may damage ISIS’s media infrastructure, which has lost skilled media professionals in recent years.