A nice boy like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, what could have got into him?
On Saturday, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, proclaimed allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the so-called “caliph” of ISIS. In an audio statement posted to Twitter, Shekau said, “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity,” according to the BBC…
Hashem says al-Baghdadi is described by people who knew him in Baghdad as “calm” and as someone who wouldn’t attempt to draw attention to himself. Hashem was also told that al-Baghdadi is extremely intelligent. Indeed, he reportedly holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from a university in Baghdad. People also mentioned the militant leader’s prowess as an attacker on the soccer field, a quality that would later earn him the nickname “Maradona,” after the famous Argentinian World Cup champion, when he was held by the Americans in Camp Bucca, Iraq.
The major turning point in al-Baghdadi’s radicalization and his decision to join what was then known as al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) was the U.S. occupation of Iraq and his incarceration in 2004 at Camp Bucca, a detention center set up the U.S. military, Hashem told MintPress.
“He’s a normal person, at least he was,” Hashem said. “He was a young man who came from a village to study in Baghdad, but his life changed after the American occupation.”
The first way al-Baghdadi’s life changed was that he became a militant. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov reported that al-Baghdadi helped to found Jeish Ahl al-Sunnah al-Jamaah, a militant group, just before he was arrested by the Americans in February 2004.
According to Hashem, al-Baghdadi was radicalized inside Camp Bucca, where he was able to meet the big names inside al-Qaida and former Ba’ath party members — all of whom were fighting against the American occupation of the country. With all of these people in the same place, Hashem said, “You can just imagine the kind of plan that is going to come out of such a place!”
Radicalization as a result of being at the camp was not uncommon, he explained. “This was the situation, not only for al-Baghdadi but for several people that entered the jails as normal people, at least not al-Qaida… And then they went out of the jails as al-Qaida operatives.”