A new photo of the elusive leader of Syria’s ultra-violent Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria has been released by the government of Iraq, an indication, perhaps, that there will be a renewed push to neutralize a man who has had the most damaging impact on the reputation of Syria’s rebel groups.
Although the photo appears to be more recent than the only other photo publicly available — the one used by the U.S. State department in its $10 million ‘wanted’ poster for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — it is unlikely to make catching or killing the former al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI] leader any easier.
The Iraq-born Baghdadi, who also goes by the nom de guerre Abu Dua (his true name, according to jihadist websites, is Ibrahim bin ‘Awad bin Ibrahim al-Badri ar-Radawi al-Husseini as-Samara‘i), has been a secretive figure ever since he took over AQI in 2010. He covers his face with a scarf even when talking to close associates, say militants who know him from his Iraq days. Even since establishing the increasingly high-profile ISIS in April he has shunned the spotlight, preferring to address his following through audio recordings posted to the Internet instead of in public.
Al-Baghdadi is now thought to be living in Syria, where ISIS has established its capital in the city of Raqqa. Members of Hizballah, the Lebanese Shi‘ite militia fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad against ISIS and the rebels, call him the Ghost. “Only a few people know the face of Baghdadi,” Sheik Ahmad, the Hizballah intelligence official in charge of investigating ISIS’s fighters in Syria, told TIME last year, speaking on condition of not revealing his full name.
There may be a new photo, but it won’t mean much if no one sees his face.