A top ISIS commander has been captured by Iraqi special forces, the country’s national intelligence service has claimed.
Abdul Nasser Qirdash, once a candidate to replace Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as head of ISIS, was arrested on Wednesday.
He was head of one of the terror group’s top commissions and served under Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who led one of the groups that preceded ISIS, they said.
He also helped command troops during the battle of Baghouz – ISIS’s last redoubt in Syria which was captured by Kurdish forces in March last year.
It is not clear how he was arrested, or where exactly the operation took place. Iraqi security services said only that they detained him based on ‘accurate intelligence’.
Initial reports in Iraq had suggested that ISIS’s top commander – a warlord with a similar name, Abdullah Qardash – was the one captured.
However, it now appears that security forces have backtracked on that claim.
ISIS’s leadership was thrown into turmoil in October last year after it confirmed that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a US raid on his compound in Idlib, Syria.
President Trump said at the time that Baghdadi ‘died like a dog’ by blowing himself up after getting cornered in an underground escape tunnel.
Three days later, Trump claimed US forces had killed the man in line to succeed Baghdadi, without putting forward a name.
While ISIS never confirmed the killing of a second-in-command figure, the US did confirm the killing of spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir.
After Baghdadi’s death, ISIS announced that Muhammad al-Mawla, who also used the nom de guerre Abdullah Qardash, was to take over as the caliph.
A relative unknown until taking over the reins of what was then the world’s most-feared terror group, Qardash is believed to have been born in Iraqi before attending university – hence his nickname The Professor.
He then served in the army of Saddam Hussein before joining al-Qaeda as US forces invaded Iraq, and was imprisoned there for a time.
It was while in jail that he is believed to have met Baghdadi, who was then laying the groundwork for a successor group to Al-Qaeda that would morph into ISIS.
But following the fall of ISIS’s so-called caliphate and the splintering of the terror group into regional forces spread across the globe, it is unclear how much control Qardash retains over the organisation.