The leader of the Islamic State (IS) when it was declared in October 2006 was Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi). Al-Zawi was killed in April 2010 and replaced in May 2010 by the current leader of the IS movement, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), who more explicitly embraced the title of “caliph”. On 12 May 2009, al-Zawi gave his seventeenth speech, entitled Umala Kadhabun (عملاء كذابون), which translates to something like “Lying Agents” or “Deceitful Spies”. The speech was released by IS’s Al-Furqan Media Productions and a translation was made by a pro-IS online outlet, The Jihadist Media Elite. The transcript is reproduced below.
Al-Zawi’s speech came in response to reports that he had been captured. The Iraqi Army first issued the claim that it has Abu Umar al-Baghdadi in custody on 23 April 2009. This report came simultaneous with a wave of terrorist attacks by IS that killed more than eighty people. On 24 April, IS carried out a gruesome atrocity at the shrine in Kadhimiya in northern Baghdad, slaughtering sixty people. These attacks were part of IS’s sectarian campaign: the first wave struck Iranian pilgrims in Baquba, people distributing aid to refugees in the Shi’a-majority Karrada district of Baghdad, and a Shi’a mosque in Tikrit; the second attacked a shrine that contains the tomb for Seventh Shi’i Imam, Musa al-Kadhim, and also the ninth Imam, Muhammad al-Taqi al-Jawad.
Then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made a statement on 26 April 2009 that ostensibly confirmed that Abu Umar had been arrested. Al-Maliki even issued a picture:
This was controversial on its face because at this time the very fact of Abu Umar was contested. As The New York Times put it, Abu Umar had not appeared in public and the politics in Baghdad surrounding the case made telling up from down difficult, leaving a “question as to whether he actually exists”. This is May 2009: two-and-a-half years after Abu Umar became IS’s emir. (More extraordinary was the August 2009 report in the Times that “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had now teamed up with another militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq”, which was based off a briefing by the U.S. commander, Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., overseeing operations in IS’s final stronghold in Mosul!)
The origins of this confusion go back to July 2007, when the U.S.-led Coalition arrested IS’s media emir, Khalid al-Mashadani (Abu Zayd al-Mashadani), and al-Mashadani had told the Americans what they wanted to hear: Abu Umar was a fiction, a character played in his audio messages by an Iraqi named Abu Abdullah al-Naima, and really the entire “Islamic State” structure was a front for al-Qaeda, with the strings being pulled by foreigners, led by the Egyptian Abu Hamza al-Muhajir or Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who was himself often misidentified in those years as Yusuf al-Dardiri. (Abu Hamza’s real name is Abdul Munim al-Badawi).
The version of events in which Abu Umar was a mere figurehead was even reported by Abu Sulayman al-Utaybi, briefly IS’s chief judge. Abu Sulayman defected from IS in August 2007, that ambiguous period when al-Qaeda in Iraq had formally been dissolved but IS retained extensive connections al-Qaeda, and reported to al-Qaeda’s leadership that Abu Hamza had said: “A man will be found [to be IS’s leader,] whom we will test for a month. If he is suitable, then we will keep him … If not, we will look for someone else.”
The U.S. military claimed in September 2008 that the Abu Umar position had been back-filled.
There were those, notably Nibras Kazimi, who doubted this version of events at the time. And in May 2008, a police chief in Haditha, Colonel Fareq al-Je’eify, had revealed to Al-Arabiya that Abu Umar was really al-Zawi, and that al-Zawi had been an officer in al-Amn al-Amm, the domestic security service (secret police) of Saddam Husayn’s regime. Al-Zawi was dismissed in the late 1980s, al-Je’eify said, because of his extremist tendencies, something that stopped happening a decade later. Al-Je’eify provided what proved to be the correct picture:
The controversy only really resolved itself on 18 April 2010, when al-Zawi was killed in the company of al-Badawi. The man the Iraqi government had presented as Abu Umar was Ahmad Abd al-Ahmad Khamis al-Majma’i. Al-Mashadani had been willfully misleading, and in doing so had brought off an historic information operation that protected not only al-Zawi but Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), who probably would have been the first leader of IS had he not been arrested in June 2006. The Americans never knew who they had, and when al-Qaduli was released in 2012, after the American withdrawal, he moved to Syria, and led the way in piecing together the caliphate.
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Praise God. We praise Him and seek His aid. Whoever God leads cannot be led astray. To such as God rejects from His guidance, there can be no guide. I testify that there is no God, but Allah alone and there is none other. I testify that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.
The most high God has said, “Verily, God guides not one who is a Musrif [transgressor, liar]” [Ghafir (40): 28]. And the messenger of God, blessing and peace be upon him, said, as found in Sahih al-Bukhari, “Truth leads to righteousness, righteousness leads to paradise, and a man must be trustworthy in order to be trusted. Furthermore, lying leads to immorality, and immorality leads to hell fire. The man who lies will be written off by God as a liar.”
Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, recorded that the messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “There are three ways to be a hypocrite: By lying, not keeping a promise, and by betraying a trust”.
Everyone was surprised by the lies of the rulers in the Ba’th palaces in the Green Zone when they once again claimed that they had arrested this humble servant of God. I thought that they would just put that out for a few hours in order to absorb the severity of the mujahideen’s attacks. However, they put out the rumor about it, and they believed their lies to the extent that they issued the picture of a man, whom they tortured, claiming that this is a picture of Abu Umar al-Baghdadi. We don’t know where they got it or who the man is. But their prisons are filled with oppressed Sunni worshipers of God.
With a simple comparison between what these agents’ lies and the lies of the idol worshipers of Quraysh, we will find that the idol worshippers had more honour and dignity than them.
As for these agents today, their souls are like the souls of slaves. Within themselves and with [other] people, they are more despicable than flies. You see that they are not ashamed of immorality because lying is immorality. More than that, it is the source of immorality, since the prophet said, blessing and peace be upon him, “Lying leads to immorality.”
Lying is a weak, Satanic idea. It does not have a leg to stand on when it faces the actions and words of the mujahideen. The devils come down upon the liar. As the Most High said, “Shall I inform you upon whom the devils descend? They descend on every lying, sinful person, [into whose ears] they pour hearsay vanities, and most of them are liars.”
There is no doubt that these Rafida [“rejectionists”, i.e. Shi’is] are serving, and drawing near to, the devil by lying. They are, as the Shaykh of Islam, Ibn Taymiyya, may God have mercy upon him, said about them, and he is their arch enemy: “There is no sect among Muslims that is more lying, or confirming lies as truth and converting truth into lies, than [Shi’is], especially when the hypocrisy among them is clear to the rest of the people.” As for the Sunnis in general and especially their sons, the mujahideen, who are drawing near to God by saying the truth, they believe God and are truthful to the people. Al-Zahri, may Allah have mercy on him, says, “By God, though a herald would call from heaven that God permitted lying, I would not lie.” These are the Sunnis, and these are their scholars, and not the scholars of taqiyya [dissimulation, deceit] and immorality.
It is known, that truthfulness is the basis of good deeds and the sum total of them. It is the characteristic of the Sunnis. Lying is the basis of evil deeds and their pattern, and is the mark of the Rafida, the worshipers of men like Al-Zahra and Al-Husayn.
Abu Hurayra, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “The messenger of God, blessing and peace be upon him, said, as found in Sahih Muslim, ‘There are three whom God will not talk to on the Day of Judgment, will not commend them and will not look at them, and they will have painful torture: an adulterous elder, a lying king, and an arrogant poor man’.” He also narrated, “There are three that God hates: a lying king, an arrogant poor man, and a miserly rich man.”