A U.S. airstrike over the weekend may have targeted and hit Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the fancy watch-wearing head of ISIS's wannabe worldwide caliphate. He may be dead, according to some people. Top people.
News broke Saturday that al-Baghdadi may have been injured in a U.S.-led airstrike Saturday against an ISIS convoy traveling near the Syria-Iraq border. American authorities wouldn't confirm the target, but a flurry of hopeful reports from U.S. conservative hawks and the likes of the Daily Mail are suggesting that Baghdadi was actually killed in the attack.
That would be potentially huge, since ISIS's Islamist movement is predicated on the idea that Baghdadi was amir al mumineen—the "leader of the faithful," a descendant of the prophet Muhammad selected by God to rule over Muslim people. If Baghdadi dies, the movement could continue with him as a martyr, but its ability to hold sway over far-off Muslims and other violent Islamist groups could grow very tenuous.
The Baghdadi death rumors appear to be perpetuated by Iraqi foreign affairs minister and longtime Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Twitter:
IRAQI GOVERNMENT OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES THAT ISIS LEADER ABU-BAKR AL-BAGHDADI HAS BEEN KILLED ON SATURDAY IN THE TOWN OF QAIM (IRAQ).
— Ibrahim al-Jaafari (@AlJaafariIraq) November 10, 2014
The Iraqi government, of course, has messed up this sort of thing before, as when it incorrectly said it had captured al Baghdadi in 2012. It also misreported the arrest or death of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Omar al-Baghdad (no relation) on a bunch of occasions before a joint operation with U.S. troops actually did kill him back in 2010.
And that's assuming the tweets from Ibrahim al-Jaafari are indeed from al-Jaafari. His purported account had been started on Twitter just two hours before it made the Baghdadi death announcement.
woah, what are the odds pic.twitter.com/xqLSVfiVND
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) November 10, 2014
This al Jaafari account looks dodgy.
— NoelMeldan (@NoelMeldan) November 10, 2014
Nevertheless, the internet is being the internet and passing around fake death pics of al-Baghdadi. Purveyors of the shot below reportedly took a death pic of another jihadi, shown at left, and 'shopped in a Baghdadi-like head to get the pic shown at right: