The US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program more than doubled the bounty for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State and its self-professed caliphate, making him one of the two most wanted men in the world. The $25 million reward now puts Baghdadi on par with Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of al Qaeda who served as the jihadist group’s deputy during the 9/11 attack.
“This represents a significant increase from the previous reward offer of $10 million announced in October 2011,” State notes in its press release announcing the new reward for Baghdadi.
State said upping the reward for Baghdadi would increase “the means available to us to gain information on their leadership and bring them to justice.”
Under Baghdadi’s leadership, the Islamic State “has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” State notes. Additionally, “the group also has conducted chemical weapons attacks in Iraq and Syria …”
State increased the reward for Baghdadi just as the Islamic State has been pushed to the brink in Iraq. The Islamic State first began taking control of territory in Iraq’s Anbar province in January 2014, and then launched a lightning offensive in June 2014 that put it in control of large areas in northern, central and eastern Iraq, including the city of Mosul. But Iraqi forces – backed by US air power, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iranian-backed Shiite militias – have slowly pushed back the Islamic State. They are currently on the offensive in Mosul, the last major city under Islamic State control.
Baghdadi, who is also known as Dr. Ibrahim ‘Awwad Ibrahim ‘Ali and Abu Du’a, was added to the US list of global terrorists in Oct. 2011, when the Islamic State of Iraq was still part of al Qaeda’s network. Long before the group seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, Rewards for Justice offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest and prosecution. It was the same amount offered for Mullah Omar, who at the time was the emir of the Taliban. The bounty for Zawahiri then was $25 million.
Baghdadi became the head of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq after Abu Omar al Baghdadi, his predecessor and the groups’ founder, was killed by Iraqi and US troops in April 2010. Also killed in that same raid was Abu Ayyub al Masri, the Egyptian-born “War Minister” of the Islamic State of Iraq.