“Jihadi fighters will be inspired by al-Baghdadi’s death as a martyr”

“The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a tremendous blow for the IS group, but this doesn’t mean the terrorist organisation no longer counts” says VRT’s conflict expert Rudi Vranckx. “You notice that the jihadi universe repeatedly sheds its skin to re-emerge as new movements. Again and again people come together in new organisations”.

Rudi Vranckx: “It goes without saying that the death of the caliph al-Baghdadi is a tremendous blow for IS.  During the past two years the military caliphate virtually disappeared and was defeated. Today the so-called caliph is also dead.  Psychologically this is a tremendous blow for IS.”

In 2011 it was thought Osama bin Laden’s death meant the end of al-Qaeda, but the terrorist outfit reinvented itself. Rudi Vranckx: “You notice that the jihadi universe repeatedly sheds its skin to re-emerge as new movements. Again and again people come together in new organisations. Who knows what form they will adopt in a couple of years’ time?”

“The million dollar question is whether somebody is ready to succeed al-Baghdadi.  There’s been talk of internal divisions for months now on the question who should succeed.”

“IS’s information agency Amaq says al-Baghdadi named a certain Abdullah Kardash as his successor in August.  He is an Islamic cleric like al-Baghdadi and belongs to the same clan. He claims the prophet Mohammed as his ancestor, but apart from that little is known about him”.

Should we now be worried about an upsurge in terrorism?

Rudi Vranckx points to a series of attacks after the IS caliphate became smaller and smaller in Iraq and Syria.  There are still believed to be numerous sleeper cells.  There are supporters in the West too. Rudi Vranckx: “They could launch isolated attacks.  Concerted attacks led from the centre may be difficult for now.”

“On Twitter there are now calls to revenge the caliph’s death.  President Trump spoke of him dying ‘like a dog’.  Jihadi fighters will be inspired by al-Baghdadi’s death as a martyr. Thousands of fighters are still active in Idlib province where al-Baghdadi sought refuge.  It makes people worry because the fighters are regrouping.  In time this can form a threat. Security services still have their work cut out for them.  The fight against IS is not at an end”.

© VRT - 2018