Al-Qaeda affiliated ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) was started by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq who waged a bloody campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings, and was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his safe house. It is now being run by his successor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released from a U.S. prison in Iraq in 2009, telling guards, “I’ll see you in New York.”
NBC Baghdadi — which is not his birth name — uses a host of aliases. U.S. Rewards for Justice Program has offered $10 million for his capture — a bounty second only to the reward for Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of al Qaeda’s global network.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the ruthless Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, oversees thousands of fighters in his quest to create a Sunni Islamic caliphate straddling the border of Iraq and Syria. Soon after being released from the Iraqi prison, Baghdadi rose through the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq. When the organization’s two leaders were killed in 2010, Baghdadi stepped into the void.
When the fighting in Syria intensified in the summer of 2011, Baghdadi saw an opportunity and opened a branch there and changed the name of his group to ISIS. He took over oil fields, giving him access to “riches beyond his wildest dreams,” Skinner said. ISIS reportedly controls tens of millions to $2 billion in total assets — built through criminal activities like smuggling and extortion, according to the State Department — but Baghdadi’s ambitions have more to do with borders than bank accounts.