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Isis leadership: Who’s who in ‘fluid’ Islamic State structure of power

isis-islamic-state-foreign-fighterUnknown, believed foreign IS fighter in a video from November 2014(Handout/FBI/Reuters)

The so-called Islamic State (Isis), which exactly one year ago seized large swathes of Iraq and declared a caliphate in the territories it controls, is structured just like any other bureaucratic organisation, including a system of checks and balances to assure the good functioning of the state.

At the top of the structure is the caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai. Two other men follow in the power ladder: Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (Fadil Ahmad Abdallah al Hayyali), who oversees IS in Iraq, and Abu Ali al-Anbari, Baghdadi’s deputy in Syria.

Both men are members of the Shura Council, IS’s highest advisory body, which maintains the ability to dismiss Baghdadi from his position as caliph. The council is headed by Abu Arkan al-Ameri and is formed by around 10 members.

The most important and powerful body of IS is the Sharia Council, which has the ability to select the caliph and monitors the appliance of sharia law in the territories controlled by the jihadist group. Other, less important councils are the security council, the military council, the media council and the finance council.

“It’s a very disseminated structure,” Aaron Balshan, security analyst with the Levantine Group, told IBTimes UK. “The way I would characterise their leadership and strategy on the battlefield is one of a very high degree of fluidity and mobility, which typically allows for the replacement of mid-level leadership with relative ease.”

A turning point in the leadership struggle came after reports emerged that Baghdadi had been seriously wounded in an air strike in March by the US-led coalition. Rumours of his death were denied by the Pentagon, but this and similar raids forced the caliph to go underground, curbing his freedom of movement as a leader.


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