Who Was Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli?

The Islamic State's second-in-command in Iraq, a former physics teacher, was reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Daniella Peled
Daniella Peled
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Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli
Undated photo of Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli used by the U.S. State Department. Credit: Screen grab
Daniella Peled
Daniella Peled

This article was originally published in November, 2015, after al-Qaduli was thought to have been killed in Iraq. It has been republished due to new reports of Qaduli's demise in an airstrike in Syria.

One of the biggest victories claimed by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State was the assassination of its second-in-command, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli.

Also known by his nom de guerre Abu Alaa al-Afari, the militant leader was killed in May 2015 in an airstrike in Tal Afar, northern Iraq, as he met with other ISIS operatives. Qaduli, who had been on the U.S. list of specially designated global terrorists since 2014, had a $7 million bounty on his head.

Born in Mosul in 1957 or 1959 into Iraq’s ethnic Turkmen minority, Qaduli qualified as a physics teacher. He trained with Al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 1998 before returning to Iraq.

BBC report on death of Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli

Qaduli became active in the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, joining Al-Qaida's local branch the next year and rising to be deputy to its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He also served as the emir of Al-Qaida in Iraq in his home city Mosul.

Jailed by the Americans, he was released in early 2012 and rejoined what was then called the Islamic State in Iraq, traveling to Syria to take part in the fighting there.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly wounded in a strike in western Iraq in April 2015. Qaduli was believed to be acting leader while al-Baghdadi was incapacitated – this is when he was said to have been killed. His death, however, has not officially been confirmed, according to the U.S. State Department. 

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