Facts About Abu Omar al-Baghdadi:
-Self proclaimed Amir of the Islamic State of Iraq
-Has taken credit for many of the major outbreaks of violence in Iraq of late.
-Considered Al Qaeda's top man in Iraq. With the Sunni insurgency being whittled down to Al Qaeda's activity in Iraq recently, he has become an even more significant player.
-Said to have headed the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an alliance of Al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations which was set up last year to downplay the role of foreigners in the Iraqi insurgency.
-The name first surfaced after Al-Zarqawi's death, when the Mujahedeen Shura Council posted a condolence message on a militant Web site.
Timeline of Al-Baghdadi's Emergence in Iraq:
October 17, 2004: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi changes the name of his organization, Monotheism and Jihad, to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia after swearing fealty to the mother Al Qaeda organization under Osama bin Laden.
January 15, 2006: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia expands its writ by forming an umbrella organization called the Shura Council of the Mujaheddin, whereby Zarqawi cedes the public face of Al Qaeda to an Iraqi figurehead, Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, but maintains full authority over the new entity.
June 7, 2006: Zarqawi is killed and succeeded shortly thereafter by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.
October 12, 2006: Al Qaeda further expands on the Shura Council of the Mujaheddin by forming yet a larger umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, not to be confused with the aforementioned Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, is declared emir, or ruler, of this "state."
November 10, 2006: Al-Muhajir, speaking as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia's chief, pledges his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and to al-Baghdadi as its head, and makes a point of highlighting al-Baghdadi's pedigree: He is of the tribe of Quraish, a usual prerequisite for a would-be caliph.
December 22, 2006: Al-Baghdadi gives his first speech, addressing Muslims everywhere. The presenter introduces him as the "Prince of the Faithful"-a title usually reserved for caliphs.
December 22, 2006: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi offers truce if U.S. withdraws from Iraq
February 2007: Al-Baghdadi issues a statement welcoming the surge of more American troops into Iraq and says he is eagerly looking forward to an American nuclear attack on Iran
March 9, 2007: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is captured in a raid in Abu Ghraib on the western outskirts of Baghdad, according to Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation. "One of the terrorists who was arrested with him confessed that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi," al-Moussawi said.
[source: Global Security]
[source: NY Sun // Blackout of the Press // February 8, 2007]
[source: Washington Post // Granting Al-Qaeda's Wish // March 8, 2007]
[source: Washington Post // Granting Al-Qaeda's Wish // Bruce Riedel // March 9, 2007]
[source: Associated Press // Iraqi spokesman says leader of major insurgent group captured west of Baghdad // March 9, 2007]