ISIS has confirmed the death of a son of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi following an attack in the province of Homs in central Syria.
According to ISIS news agency, Amaq, the death was announced in an official statement under the subject line “Caravans of Martyrs” and was published in the Telegram app under an Arabic username, which translates to what the extremist group calls as “the mandate of Homs”.
The agency also released the picture of a boy in Afghan uniform, carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. However, questions have been raised over how he was killed given that he looked like a minor carrying a machine gun.
“The son of the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in the “Nasiriyah” at the hotspot location in the state of Homs,” the statement said.
A review of the group’s speeches over the years suggest that the term “Nasiriyah” is often referred to as the Alawite sect of the Syrian regime’s president Bashar al-Assad.
Following the photograph release, questions have been raised about where was Baghdadi’s son actually killed.
In the statement he has been described as a young man who was among “the best trained fighters”. The question being asked is did the group use his death as a way to promote recruitment and for other extremist propaganda.
According to SITE Intelligence Group, supporters of ISIS and linked media groups portrayed the death as a “sacrifice for faith” and serving as a “slap in the face” of all who “doubt its sincerity”.
SITE also suggests that the group appears to have succeeded in “drawing the sympathy of its supporters”. Many comments from ISIS supporters also suggested that the news was being taken as proof that Baghdadi was with “his family and his homeland”.
The death of Baghdadi’s son is being viewed similar to the death of Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada’s son, Abdul Hafiz.
According to Long War Journal, Abdul Hafiz died in July 2017 in Afghanistan after blowing himself up in an operation targeting Afghan forces in Helmand province.
Baghdadi ‘likely alive’
An official Iraqi statement confirmed in early May that Baghdadi, who has been unofficially confirmed dead several times, is still likely to be alive and present on Syrian border territory with Iraq.
“Baghdadi is traveling in these areas in hiding. He is traveling with four to five people, including his son and son-in-law, Abu Zeid al-Iraqi and someone I cannot disclose yet,” the official said.
The last letter released by Baghdadi surfaced on September 28, 2017, two weeks before the fall of Raqqa, the former ISIS stronghold in Syria.
He called on his supporters to “be patient and steadfast” in the face of the “infidels” allied against them in Syria and Iraq.
Baghdadi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, has appeared only once before on film when he declared the “Caliphate”. He is believed to have four children from his first wife and a son from a second wife.