Tampa, Florida — The U.S. Central Command announced today that the Islamic State’s chief cleric and the ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s rumored number two man, Turki-al-Bin’ ali, has been killed in an airstrike near Mayadin, Syria on May 31st.
The self-proclaimed “Grand Mufti” of the Islamic State, Bin’ ali was the chief religious advisor and chief propagandist to the Islamic State’s strict Salafist teachings of Islam. Bin’ ali may have also taken over the Islamic State’s intelligence wing known as the Emni after the killing of the its former leader and ISIL chief spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, was killed in a coalition “precision airstrike” by U.S. warplanes near Aleppo, Syria in August 2016.
The Emni is the Islamic State’s primary source for pro-ISIS propaganda and also integral in establishing the Islamic State’s Foreign Operations Division in which ISIS would recruit foreign fighters from the West and then send those fighters back to their country of origin to execute terrorist attacks on the civilian populations. Emni foreign operatives were responsible for the training and recruiting of the jihadists who carried out the November 2015 Paris attack as well as the terrorist attack in Brussels in March 2016.
Bin’ ali was born in Bahrain and spent the majority of his life within several of the Gulf States. Bin’ ali studied Islam in Saudi Arabia and became enamored with another strict ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s dominant form of Islamic faith within the country. There Bin’ ali became a powerful member of the Permanent Committee for the Islamic Research and Issuing of Fatwas established by the King of Saudi Arabia to advise him on religious matters.
There Bin’ ali was introduced to and began studying under one of the most prolific pro-al-Qaeda leaning Salafist clerics, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Al-Maqdisi has had several well-known Salafist-leaning students under his tutelage, one of the most familiar is none other than the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the architect of the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Bin’ ali was reported to have traveled to Yemen in the early 2000’s to join up with the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) movement and was arrested in late 2007 in southern Yemen. He was released shortly after, under pressure from Saudi Arabian senior clerics.
Then in April 2014 Bin’ ali outlined the need for the establishment of an Islamic State and that a true Muslim leader emerge. It is rumored that after reading his essay, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi decided to emerge as the chosen one and in June 2014 he established the Islamic State Caliphate and himself its defacto “caliph” or leader. Bin’ ali made hijra or migration to the Islamic State and pledged fealty al-Baghdadi whereupon Bin’ ali became the chief religious advisor and began his campaign of recruitment for Gulf State Muslims to pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi and fight for the victorious establishment of the Islamic State.
The death of Turki-al-Bin’ ali will be a major blow to the Islamic State and its recruitment and propaganda campaign. As ISIL/ISIS continues to lose major swaths of previously held territory, it may seem unlikely that they will find a suitable replacement that will stay alive long enough to re-ignite the its propaganda machine that the group has enjoyed over the last three years.
Feature image courtesy of: New York Post