Who’s Who In The ISIS Leadership?

Despite the reported elimination of half of ISIS’ leadership, the terror group continues to make significant strides. But just who exactly are the figures at the helm?

With the exception of ISIS’ enigmatic leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, much of the terror group’s hierarchy still lacks mainstream recognition.

Their lack of recognition, however, stands in stark contrast with just how experienced many of such leaders actually are.

More than a few are (or have been) seasoned commanders from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army, or ranking officials in other global terror groups.

ISIS, though its just recently risen to international recognition, is a tightly structured organization. Using a hierarchy not unlike an emerging business or nation (structures include a cabinet, war office, and governors) the terror group has been able to expand its operations wider and wider.

According to The Soufan Group below are the notables at the top of the ISIS’ ladder, what they do, and where they come from.

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Who’s Who In The ISIS Leadership?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi


Real name: Ibrahim Awwad Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai

Position: Leader of ISIS

A former Imam (religious leader) and PhD in muslim studies, al-Baghdadi took the reigns of ISIS in 2010. He has since declared a worldwide caliphate (a global theocracy) and has expanded his militants into Syria, Iraq, and parts of Libya. Al-Baghdadi is thought to be 43-years-old and successfully launched ISIS–a group formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq–to new and terrifying levels.

Abu Ali al-Anbari


Real name: Unknown

Position: Deputy of Syria/Head of Security

Al-Anbari is a former military general of Saddam Hussein’s now defunct army. Next to ISIS’ former deputy of Iraq, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (who has since been killed in action), al-Anbari is considered to be second in command to ISIS’ self-proclaimed Caliph al-Baghdadi.

In addition to serving in Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army, al-Anbari also served Al Qaeda in Iraq as well as another Sunni radical group called Ansar-al-Islam before being expelled amidst allegations of financial corruption.

Abu Ayman al Iraqi


Real name: Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi

Position: Head of the military council

Another former military official of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq army, al-Iraqi now operates as a commander in ISIS’ army as well as the reported head of ISIS military council.

Aside from his background as a colonel in the Iraqi army and his prominent role for ISIS in commanding troops in Syria, little is known about known about al-Iraqi and his persona.

Abu Omar al-Shishani


Real name: Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili

Position: Field Commander

Arguably one the most standout senior military officers in ISIS, both for his Chechen background and signature red beard, al-Shishani has risen to become one of the top ranked officers in ISIS’ forces.

Georgia born, Al-Shishani is a veteran of the Russo-Georgian war and was named commander of a northern section of Syria in 2013. He has been involved with a number of extremist militant groups throughout his life.

Abu Mohammad al-Adnani


Real name: Taha Subhi Falaha

Position: Official spokesman

Al-Adnani is known most notably for delivering a speech in which he urged followers of ISIS to kill all ‘unbelievers.”

He sits on the Shura Council with other high ranking officials and was detained (like many other ISIS leaders) for five years by American forces in Iraq before being released in 2010.

Abu al Athir Amr al-Absi


Real name: Unknown

Position: Head of mass media

Part of ISIS’ strategy for expansion is through a strong presence on social (and mass) media–a responsibility headed by Syrian native al-Absi.

According to The Soufan Group (pdf) al-Absi is in charge of controlling a network of bloggers and social media propagandists.

He was also key in convincing the Chechen, al-Shishani, to join ISIS.

We measure success by the understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?
James Pero