Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s propaganda chief and spokesperson, has reportedly been killed in northern Syria.
A New York Times investigation found that the ISIS intelligence unit, known in Arabic as Emni, has built a complex hierarchy of lieutenants and foreign nationals “empowered to plan attacks in different regions of the world.” According to the Times, records show that small groups of operatives— chosen by nationality— have been sent to Germany, Spain, Austria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Tunisia and Bangladesh. Emni trainees are thought to have led the attacks on Paris in Nov. 2015 and created the suitcase bombs in March’s Brussels assault.
At the top of Emni’s pyramid is the elusive Adnani, who has evaded capture from coalition forces and is one of the most senior Syrian operatives of ISIS. Here is what we know him:
The 39-year-old, whose birth name is Taha Sobhi Falaha, was born in the town of Binnish near the city of Idlib in northern Syria. He fought against the U.S. led coalition in Iraq and is believed to have been captured between 2005 and 2010 of the conflict. During his time at the U.S. camp detention facility Camp Bucca, it is reported that Adnani first met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi— the current leader and self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS.
Becoming the voice of ISIS
Adnani revealed the group’s aims to be a governing entity rather than a terrorist group in June 2014 when he first declared ISIS a “caliphate,” led by Baghdadi. He began to be known as the official spokesman of the group and the U.S. Department of State officially designated him as a terrorist in Aug. 2014. In September that year, Adnani wrote in ISIS’s Dabiq magazine calling for ISIS sympathizers, or ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists, to launch attacks on the West. “If you are not able to find a bomb or a bullet, then smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him … If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face” Adnani wrote.
Wounded in battle
In Jan. 2016, reports claimed Adnani was injured in an airstrike in the the Iraqi town of Barwanah. Iraq’s joint operation command said he had lost “large amounts of blood” and was transported to the Iraqi city of Hit for treatment. The Syrian still has a $5 million bounty on his head and in an audio clip distributed on May 22, is believed to have called followers to launch attacks in Europe and the U.S. “Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready” Adnani said, according to Reuters. “To make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers … especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America.”
The propagandist turns spy chief
Jailed jihadist Harry Sarfo told the Times how Emni recruited and reallocated individuals to launch terrorist attacks abroad. Sarfo, who is a German national, said “the big man behind everything is Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.” Sarfo also claimed that recruits would meet Adnani once they finished 10 levels of training and they would pledge alliance to him blindfolded. Not even Adnani’s top fighters, says Sarfo, know what this lynchpin of ISIS’s global terrorism operations looks like.