Abdul Nasser Qardash
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Abdul Nasser Qardash
عبد الناصر قرداش
|Born||1967 (age 53–54)|
Tal Afar, Iraq
|Allegiance|| Ba'athist Iraq (prior to 2003)|
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Iraqi insurgency (2011–2013)
Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War
Iraqi insurgency (2017–present)
Abdul Nasser Qardash (Arabic: عبد الله عبد الناصر قرداش) (sometimes identified as Abdel Nasser Qirdash or Kardesh, also known as Hajji Abdullah al-Afari) is an Iraqi-born militant who in 2019 was wrongly reported as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He was also nicknamed "The Professor" and "Destroyer". Although his role within ISIL is unclear, he is reported as one of ISIL's top commanders and tipped as a potential candidate for ISIL leadership succession. However days after the death of Al-Baghdadi, ‘Abdul-Rahman Al-Mawlah known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was ultimately chosen as the new declared leader of ISIS.
Qardash is an Iraqi Turkmen and was born in the mainly Turkmen city of Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied in the Islamic Sciences college in the nearby city of Mosul. Qardash was a Major General within the army of Saddam Hussein. Qardash was jailed in 2003–2004 by the US authorities with al-Baghdadi in Camp Bucca, a detention facility in Basra, following the invasion of Iraq and the ousting of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Qardash joined al-Qaeda in 2007. He became a religious commissar in al-Qaeda in Nineveh, later in Al Jazeera, and in early 2008 became Qaeda's "wali" of Al Jazeera. He organized a number of military operations against Iraqi forces and the Iraqi population on behalf of al-Qaeda. In early 2010, he became assistant and consequently, with the approval of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi "wali" of the northern provinces including Mosul, South Mosul, al Jazeera and Kirkuk.
At the end of 2011, he met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and joined the Islamic State serving in the Baghdad region. He was trusted with the industry and development portfolios for ISIL. Then he moved to Syria to establish firearm and explosive factories and storage facilities, and met Al-Baghdadi almost a hundred times for coordination of ISIL operations. After the rift between ISIL and Al Nusra Front, he was assigned "wali" of al-Sharqiyyah including Syrian Al-Hasaka, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.
After the declaration of the IS caliphate in July 2014, his rank rose quickly as "wali of Al-Baraka and assistant to Abu Mohammad al-Adnani and after the death of the latter on 30 August 2016 as the chief of the Islamic State's Delegated Committee (al-Lajna al-Mufawwada) and deputy leader of Caliph al-Baghdadi.
He was known as "The Professor", because he graduated in Islamic Studies in Mosul, whereas the nickname "The Destroyer" comes from his reputation as a ruthless persecutor. He is also famous as head of security for Islamic State operatives, and as the coordinator of IS terrorist cells in North Africa and Europe.
During the International military intervention against ISIL, Qardash oversaw operations against the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo and the Syrian Arab Army in Deir ez-Zor. Qardash also personally oversaw the selection of suicide bombers and the conduct of suicide operations for the Islamic State. He supervised the fabrication and storage of mustard gas eventually used against Iraqi forces. Qardash also helped command ISIL troops in the Siege of Kobanî, various Palmyra offensives (Tadmur), and finally during the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, Baghuz being the last stronghold of ISIL in Syria. At the end of the operations in Baghuz on 23 March 2019, he surrendered and was arrested. As of 2014, Qardash was in his mid-50s.
Reputed ISIL leader
There were reports, refuted later, that Qardash assumed the position of leadership of ISIL on 27 October 2019 following the death of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the Barisha raid conducted by the United States Army in northwest Syria. A statement in August 2019 attributed to ISIL's propaganda arm, the Amaq News Agency, said that Qardash had been named al-Baghdadi's successor.
Some analysts dismissed the statement about Qardash assuming ISIL leadership as a fabrication. Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and the co-founder of SITE Intelligence, noted that the statement used a different font when compared to other statements and it was never distributed on Amaq or ISIL channels.
Declaration of al-Qurayshi as leader
The allegedly false statement re-emerged in October 2019 following the death of al-Baghdadi, and was reported on by several news organizations, including Newsweek. A few days later, on 31 October, ISIL presented Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as the name of the individual who was Baghdadi's successor, and not Qardash.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an ISIL analyst and counter-terrorism advisor to the Iraqi government, said in October 2019 that, according to Iraqi intelligence sources, Qardash had died in 2017 and his daughter was being held by Iraqi intelligence. He said Qardash's death had been confirmed by both his daughter and other relatives. As of 31 October, his death has not been confirmed by other sources.
The Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) said in May 2020 that they had taken custody of Abdul Nasser Qardash. Qardash is the highest ranking Islamic State officer to ever be taken into custody. INIS issued a statement saying "Today, the terrorist named Abdul Nasser al-Qardash, the candidate to succeed the criminal al-Baghdadi, was arrested. The arrest came after accurate intelligence." INIS also distributed a picture of a somber and thin Qardash wearing a long-sleeved flannel shirt.
On 21 May 2020, the Iraqi National Intelligence Services further elaborated that Qardash was in charge of manufacturing chemical warfare agents to attack Iraqi troops. It said: "Qardash was responsible for the production and development of mustard gas, which was used for attacking Iraqi forces across the country. He plays a prominent role in the negotiation process between the group [ISIL] and its factions, as well as with other terrorist movements".
There are conflicting reports however that Qardash may have been initially arrested in Syria in 2019 by Kurdish forces but was handed over to the Iraqi authorities only recently (May 2020). The Syrian Democratic Forces affiliated with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had captured Qardash after the Boghuz Battle and kept him for months before delivering him to the Iraqi authorities. SDF/YPG quoted his full name as Taha Abdel Rahim Abdallah Bakr al Ghassani Al Makni Hajji Abdul Nasser Qardash (Arabic: طه عبد الرحيم عبد الله بكر الغساني المكنى حجي عبد الناصر قرداش) also known as Abu Muhammad born 1967 in Tel Afar and from the inhabitants of Hayy Mshayrfeh in Mosul. His transfer to Iraq was coordinated with the US-led International Coalition.
After his capture, al-Qardash confirmed in an interview with Al Arabiya television: "There was a massive reevaluation of the Islamic State after it lost vast areas including Kobani and many other areas. There were three of us, myself [Qardash], Omar al-Furkan and Ayoub Rakawi, who sat with the leadership to review our steps." After the death of Al-Baghdadi, none of the three emerged as ISIL leader as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was declared the eventual leader and caliph of the Islamic State.
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