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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ISIS confirms death of senior leader in Syria -- By Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal

Haji-Bakr-ISIS-SITE.jpg Images of Haji Bakr released by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. From the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the jihadist group that was denounced by al Qaeda's General Command just days ago, has confirmed that one of its senior leaders was killed during a clash with a Syrian rebel group in early January.

The ISIS leader, known as Abu Bakr al Iraqi or Haji Bakr, was a senior military commander and top deputy to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the embattled emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Haji Bakr was first reported killed in early January after his group clashed with the Syrian Martyrs' Brigade, a unit of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. A picture that purported to show Haji Bakr's corpse was published on LiveLeak, but the image does not appear to match a picture released by the ISIS.

The ISIS announced the death of Haji Bakr in an official statement that was released on a jihadist Twitter account on Feb. 2. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

"We congratulate the mujahideen in general and in Iraq and al Sham in particular, for the martyrdom of the Mujahid Sheikh, the Commander, Abu Bakr al Iraqi," the ISIS eulogy stated. The ISIS claimed he was "knocked down by the cowardly, insidious hands in the countryside of Northern Aleppo by the criminals of the Awakenings." The group has tagged Free Syrian Army and even allied Islamist groups as Awakening, or anti-al Qaeda groups, that are supported by Western and Arab countries.

Haji Bakr "was one of the very first of those who joined the mujahideen after the Crusader [US] invasion of Iraq," and was detained twice by US forces. The ISIS claimed he was jailed for four years at one point.

According to the ISIS, Haji Bakr was assigned to "wage the war of the silencers and security work inside the cities," a reference to the ISIS' assassination campaign after it lost overt control of cities and towns throughout Iraq during the US and Iraqi military surge that began in 2007. The ISIS has released videos of its assassination campaign and referred to its assassins as "knights of the silencers" as they use silenced pistols to gun down their enemies. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in Iraq video shows series of attacks against Iraqi security forces.]

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