Abu Ali al-Anbari

Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli
Birth name Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli
Born 1957 or 1959
Mosul, Nineveh, Iraq
Died 25 March 2016 (aged 56-59)
Eastern Syria

al-Qaeda Al-Qaeda

(April 2013 – March 2016)
Years of service 1990's–2016
Rank Deputy leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria

War on Terror


Military intervention against ISIL

Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (1957/1959 25 March 2016) (Arabic: عبد الرحمن مصطفى القادولي), better known by his noms de guerre Abu Ala al-Afri (Arabic: أبو علاء العفري) and Abu Ali al-Anbari (Arabic: أبو علي الأنباري), was the governor for territories held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria. Considered the ISIL second-in-command (along with Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, his counterpart in Iraq),[1] he was viewed as a potential successor of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On 14 May 2014, he was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S Treasury Department, and on 5 May 2015, the U.S. Department of State announced a reward of up to US$7 million for information leading to his capture or death.[2][3]

On 25 March 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense announced al-Qaduli’s death as a result of a US special forces operation conducted the previous day.[4]


Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli used at least seven aliases, including Abu Ali al-Anbari, Abu Alaa al-Afri, Hajji Iman and al-Dar Islami.[5][6][7] The Daily Beast reported that confusion caused by these aliases led Iraqi and American security officials to think that Abu Ali al-Anbari and Abu Ala al-Afri were separate senior ISIL leaders.[5]


Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli is believed to have been born around 1957 or 1959 in Mosul, Nineveh. He was a physics teacher in Tal Afar and a preacher. He was involved with radical Islam since the 1980s.[5]


Al-Qaduli was believed to have travelled to Afghanistan in 1998 and trained with al-Qaeda. It was here he was said to have earned the trust and respect of Osama bin Laden.[8]


He returned from Afghanistan following the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the Sulaymaniyah province of Iraqi Kurdistan, where he was briefly a member of Ansar al-Islam.[1]

Al-Qaeda in Iraq

He pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004, joining Al-Qaida in Iraq, overseeing the sharia authorities in northern Iraq and serving as al-Zarqawi's local leader in Mosul.[9]

In February 2006 he traveled to Pakistan on behalf of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to conduct an interview, which was then to be provided to al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.

Islamic State of Iraq

When al-Zarqawi's successors, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in a joint U.S-Iraqi raid in 2010, the Islamic State of Iraq had to choose a new successor. According to Al-Monitor, Osama bin Laden wanted al-Qaduli to become the group's new leader.[10] Islamic State sources confirmed that Osama bin Laden appointed Abu Ali al-Anbari to lead ISI, but affirm that his instruction came too late, two weeks after a pledge had already been made to make Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the leader.

Islamic State sources affirm that he was in charge of coordinating day-to-day military operations of the Islamic State in al-Sham. He was a gifted speaker and served as a Sharii, and while he was in al-Raqqa, he gave a series of recording lectures (more than 40 hours) at al-Imam al-Nawawi Mosque, that summarize the Aqida of the Islamic State and break down the arguments of man-made constitutions and laws, parliaments, courts, and democratic norms like devolution of power and popular sovereignty in a coherent and unparalleled manner. One of his lectures was included in the 19th episode of the “Messages from the Land of Epic Battles” series by al-Furqan Media Foundation.[11]

Syrian Civil War and ISIL

In early 2012, al-Qaduli is believed to have either escaped or have been released from prison in Iraq, after which he rejoined the Islamic State of Iraq and moved to Syria during the early days of the civil war there.[12] During 2013, al-Qaduli sent messengers and held meetings with field commanders of various Syrian rebel groups, offering them money and weapons to switch allegiance to ISIL. Some did so publicly, defecting with men and weapons, others did so in secret, remaining affiliated with their existing groups while organizing the targeted assassinations of rivals.[13] Memory sticks found by Iraqi security forces during a 2014 raid on the home of Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi, ISIL's military chief of staff, identified al-Qaduli, named as Abu Ali al-Anbari, as being the overall head of ISIL military and non-military operations within Syria.[14][15]

Al-Qaduli is rumoured to have favoured reconciliation with al-Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, after al-Qaeda cut off ties with ISIL in early 2014. He also reportedly believed ISIL's leadership should be composed of both Arabs and foreigners, in contrast to the dominance of Iraqis in the group.[9][16]

Al-Qaduli was a key coordination link between al-Baghdadi and his inner circle and his emirs in different provinces across the group's territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya.[9] The New York Times reported in November 2015 that al-Qaduli had visited Libya, where ISIL had established a powerful branch centered in the city of Sirte.[17]

In March 2015, it was rumoured that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIL, had suffered injuries, leaving him incapacitated.[18] Hisham al-Hashimi wrote of al-Qaduli: "He is smart, and a good leader and administrator. If Baghdadi ends up dying, he will lead them."[9] According to the New York Observer, al-Qaduli was described by people who knew him as being dynamic, possessing operational experience and having very good contacts. It was reported that he was a charismatic preacher. But most importantly, al-Qaduli supposedly exceled in battle strategy. That is where he made his mark both in al-Qaeda and in ISIL.[8]

Reports of death

According to the Iraqi Defence Ministry, Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli was killed on 12 May 2015, in a US-led Coalition airstrike on a mosque in Tal Afar. The airstrike was reported to have dozens of other militants present.[19][20] However, the video of the attack shown by the Iraqi Defence ministry was actually of a Coalition airstrike in Mosul, 40 miles away, on 4 May.[21] The U.S. Defense Department said that it had no information to corroborate the claims, and United States Central Command stated that no mosques had been struck by Coalition aircraft.[22][23] The Iraqi media again reported al-Qaduli’s death in a 12 December 2015 airstrike,[24] but this was also disputed.[25]

Confirmed death

United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in a joint media briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on 25 March 2016, announced al-Qaduli's death the previous day,[26] correcting earlier erroneous claims.

Forces commanded by JSOC arrived via helicopter to arrest al-Qaduli in eastern Syria near the Syrian-Iraqi border, while he and three other ISIL members were travelling in a vehicle coming from Ar-Raqqah. The US Special Forces ordered him to exit the vehicle. When he refused and pulled out an assault rifle instead, US forces fired at the vehicle, killing him and the other passengers on board. US commandos also seized electronics and other documents during the operation for intelligence purposes.[27] On 30 April 2016, ISIL acknowledged al-Qaduli's death and launched a series of attacks across Iraq and Syria named “The Battle of Abu Ali Al Anbari” in his honour.[28]


  1. 1 2 "Brutal Efficiency: The Secret to Islamic State's Success". Wall Street Journal. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  2. "Treasury Designates Al-Qa'ida Leaders In Syria". U.S Department of the Treasury. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  3. "Offers for Information on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Terrorists Rewards for Justice". U.S Department of State. May 5, 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  4. "A Top ISIS Leader Is Killed in an Airstrike, the Pentagon Says". New York Times. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 "Everything We Knew About This ISIS Mastermind Was Wrong". The Daily Beast. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  6. "Islamic State Second-in-Command Killed in Airstrike, Iraq Says". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 May 2016.(subscription required)
  7. "Pentagon announces death of senior Islamic State leader". Long War Journal. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016. ”Abd al Rahman Mustafa al Qaduli (also known as Hajji Iman, Abu Ali al Anbari and Abu Ala al Afri, among other aliases)”
  8. 1 2 "The Next bin Laden? Meet ISIS' New Top Dog". Observer. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Jack Moore (22 April 2015). "ISIS Replace Injured Leader Baghdadi With Former Physics Teacher". Newsweek. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  10. "The many names of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi". Al-Monitor. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  12. "Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli". Rewards for Justice. 5 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  13. "Behind the Black Flag: The Recruitment of an ISIS Killer". The New York Times. 21 December 2015.
  14. "Revealed: the Islamic State 'cabinet', from finance minister to suicide bomb deployer". The Telegraph. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  15. "Who might lead ISIS if al-Baghdadi dies?". CNN. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  16. "The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein's". Washington Post. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  17. "ISIS' Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option". The New York Times. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  18. "Isis leader incapacitated with suspected spinal injuries after air strike". The Guardian. 2 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  19. "ISIS' Abu Alaa al-Afri killed alongside dozens of followers in air strike - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  20. Barbara Starr; Nick Paton Walsh; Hamdi Alkhshali (13 May 2015). "ISIS' No. 2 leader Abu Alaa al-Afri killed, Iraq says". CNN. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  21. "Iraq's B.S. About Killing ISIS Bosses". The Daily Beast. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  22. "Correction to the Record: Airstrike in Tal Afar". CENTCOM. 13 May 2015. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  23. Barbara Starr; Nick Paton Walsh; Hamdi Alkhshali (14 May 2015). "ISIS No. 2 leader al-Afri killed in airstrike, Iraq says". CNN. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  24. Salar Qassim (12 December 2015). "Baghdadi's advisor killed in Iraqi raid". aranews.net. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  25. Philip Ingram. "Middle East Regional Intelligence to 16th December 2015". Security Middle East. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  26. "A Top ISIS Leader Is Killed in an Airstrike, Pentagon Says - New York Times Online". Times Online. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  27. Kesling, Ben; Entous, Adam; Paletta, Damian (25 March 2016). "Senior Islamic State Leader Killed". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  28. "Series of deadly operations named after fallen Islamic State leader". Long War Journal. 2 May 2016.
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