Iraqi intelligence announces arrest of key ISIS figure
LONDON - Iraq has arrested a leading ISIS figure who was once a candidate to succeed the slain caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi Intelligence Service announced.
“Today, the terrorist named Nasser al-Qirdash, the candidate to succeed the criminal (Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has been arrested,” the intelligence agency said in a brief statement May 20.
Iraqi news agency al-Sumaria published photos of Qirdash after the arrest dressed in a yellow and red chequered shirt and black trousers.
The circumstances surrounding Qirdash’s arrest remain unclear, with Iraqi security services saying only that the ISIS operative had been detained based on “accurate intelligence.”
Nicknamed “The Professor” for graduating in Islamic Studies in Mosul and “The Destroyer” for his reputation as a ruthless persecutor, Qirdash was reportedly tipped as the main candidate to assume the leadership of ISIS in October 2019 following the death of Baghdadi.
However, reports by several news organisations at the time proved wrong and ISIS later appointed Abdul-Rahman Al-Mawlah, known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, as Baghdadi’s successor, not Qirdash, who was given the number two position.
Regardless of his true role and the extent of his influence within ISIS, Qirdash, a former detainee at the Camp Bucca detention facility in Basra, is believed to have met Baghdadi there before becoming was one of his closest companions.
During the international military intervention against the terrorist group, Qirdash oversaw operations against the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo and the Syrian Arab Army in Deir ez-Zor.
He also personally oversaw the selection of suicide bombers and the conduct of suicide operations for ISIS, helping command troops during the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, ISIS’s final stronghold in Syria.
Qirdash is also known for his role heading security for ISIS operatives and as the coordinator of ISIS terrorist cells in North Africa and Europe.
The announcement of Qirdash’s arrest coincides with the escalation of attacks by suspected ISIS fighters in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. ISIS attacks have recently been launched in an area between Kirkuk, Saladin and Diyala, known as the “Triangle of Death.”
In 2017, Iraq declared victory over ISIS after reclaiming its entire territory.
The victory, announced at the time by former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, meant the end of a dark chapter that started in the summer of 2014, when the terrorist group invaded and took control of a territory estimated to be about a third of the country’s area.
In October 2019, US President Donald Trump announced the killing of Baghdadi in an air raid in the countryside of Idlib province in northeast Syria.
Under Baghdadi’s command, ISIS carried out deadly attacks against religious minorities throughout the world in the name of a form of ultra-fanatical Islam.