Potential Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi successor arrested in Iraq, national intelligence service says
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Wednesday announced the arrest of Abdul Nasser Qardash, reportedly set to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s successor, the former caliph of the so-called Islamic State who was killed in 2019. Other sources say he was arrested a year ago in Syria and was merely handed over to Iraqi authorities recently.
The NIS said it managed to arrest Qardash who is a “potential candidate for [ISIS] caliph,” the state-owned al-Iraqiya News Agency reported on Wednesday, without elaborating the time and location of the arrest.
Qardash, whose real name is Taha Abdul Rahim Abdullah Bakr Al-Ghassani, is from Tal Afar, a mixed Sunni-Shi’a Turkmen-majority city in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, according to the Security Media Cell, Iraq's military press center. Ghassani reportedly joined al-Qaida in Nineveh in 2007.
The Iraqi Security Media Cell released a statement that said Qardash was arrested “in coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
“Qardash was arrested by the SDF following the fierce Battle of Baghouz in 2019, according to informed sources,” the statement added, noting that “he played an effective role in the Baghouz battle.”
Hassan Hassan, the director of Non-State Actors Program at the Center for Global Policy (CGP), confirmed that the arrest occurred a year ago by the “Syrians and Americans” as he described the news as “old.” Hassan claimed in another tweet that Americans handed him over to Iraqi authorities.
To clarify — he was arrested last year. He’s not the leader of Isis, he was part of the delegated committee. He was just handed over to the Iraqis by the Syrians and Americans. Old news. https://t.co/R6sy9so0co— Hassan Hassan (@hxhassan) May 20, 2020
Following the murder of former leader Baghdadi in Syria’s Idlib, the terror group designated Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi as his successor, whose real name is Ameer Muhammed Saeed Al-Salbi Al-Mawla.
Qaradash was assigned with several tasks and leadership roles by Baghdadi in both Syria and Iraq, according to his profile released by the security media cell. Following the split of Jabhat al-Nusra from al-Qaida, he became the Eastern governor in Syria whose span of control included Hasakah, Deir al-Zor, and Raqqa, it added.
The news of Qardash’s arrest comes as the terror group has intensified its terrorist attacks, targeting security forces and crop fields that have been set on fire across the country during harvest season.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany