ISIS: "Caliph's death would not prove lethal for group"

Yet analysts are divided. Names of potential successors

12 November, 11:08

    (by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 12 - Arab observers are divided between those describing the Islamic State (ISIS) as a monster with many heads, and thus able to regenerate leaders, or an organization relying entirely on its chief, ''caliph'' Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. They are also divided in figuring out the potential short and long-term repercussions of his possible death on the jihadist group present in Iraq and Syria.

    So far allegations, re-launched yesterday by Egyptian daily al Ahram among others, that the leader has possibly been wounded or killed in US-led Coalition air raids have not been confirmed.

    The air raids were carried out between last Friday and Saturday in northern Iraq, close to Mosul.

    ''It is reductive to state that ISIS can do without Baghdadi by simply replacing him at the helm of the organization'', wrote yesterday pan Arab daily al Quds al Arabi.

    ''It's like saying the Islamic State is a group with several autonomous local leaderships, without considering the political and personal strength of Baghdadi''.

    Measuring the relevance the self-proclaimed caliph has within ISIS has led many to wonder how the organization is structured after it turned, in just two years, from the Iraqi arm of al Qaida to a pseudo-State entity able to challenge regional and international powers.

    ''It is true that it is impossible to totally behead the leadership of ISIS'', wrote Abdennasser Mansur on Iraqi daily Zaman, ''but we can't forget that Baghdadi as a person has proven he has strong charisma and an ability to attract consensus''.

    Mansur recalled that it was Baghdadi who transformed the Islamic State of Iraq - an al Qaida arm - into today's Islamic State, through the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    And it's the ''caliph Ibrahim, a descendant of Mohamed's clan'' seen by many Arab-Islamic jihadist leaders as a global guide and reference point.

    Other observers are wondering who could step into his shoes.

    Under the ''caliph'', ISIS is managed by a consultative council, which should appoint a temporary leader and then a new ''caliph'', which in Arabic means successor, implicitly ''of Mohamed''.

    Over the past few hours, Syria's Abu Muhammad al Adnani, current spokesman for ISIS, has been slated as a potential successor, though some consider him as too young a 'shaykh' to occupy such a key post.

    Others pointed to military chief Abu Muslim Turkmani, an ex officer of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, who is however described as lacking charisma and, according to some sources, a casualty of Friday's raids.

    Analysts are also eyeing Abu Omar Shishani, the ''Chechen'', described by many as the ''war minister'' of ISIS and the chief of the siege on Kobane/Ayn Arab, the Syrian Kurdish city at the border with Turkey.

    But no name so far has convinced analysts nor Islamic State supporters who have been assuring on social media that ''Baghdadi is alive and in charge''.(ANSAmed).

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