Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-
Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-, nom de guerre of Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, 1971–, Iraqi jihadist leader. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he helped found a Sunni militia. Arrested in 2004, he spent less than a year in prison, then joined Al Qaeda in Iraq. He became the group's commander in 2010, revived its terrorist activities, and fostered an allied group in Syria from 2011. In 2014, Baghdadi's forces, now known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, sought to assert control over their Syrian allies, and consolidated their hold on E Syria. They then moved into N and W Iraq, capturing Mosul and other urban centers. Baghdadi, denounced by Al Qaeda for his actions in Syria, renamed his group the Islamic State (IS), and proclaimed a caliphate with himself as caliph. By late 2017, however, after prolonged and bitter fighting, his forces had lost most of their territory in both Syria and Iraq, and the IS increasingly emphasized jihadist terrorist attacks by sympathizers abroad.
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