Abdullah Qardash

Al-Haj Abdullah Qardash (Arabic: عبد الله قرداش[2]) (sometimes spelled Karshesh, also known as Hajji Abdullah al-Afari), also nicknamed "The Professor" and "Destroyer",[3] is or was an Iraqi-born militant who in 2019 was wrongly reported as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). His role within ISIL is unclear and there are reports that Qardash may have died in 2017.[4]

Abdullah Qardash
عبد الله قرداش
Personal details
Abu Jassim al-Iraqi

Tal Afar, Iraq
Died2017 (suspected)
ReligionSunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance Ba'athist Iraq (prior to 2003)
Al-Qaeda (2003-2014)
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
CommandsWilayat al-Sham[1]
Battles/warsIraq War
Iraqi insurgency (2011–2013)
Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War
Iraqi insurgency (2017–present)


Qardash is an Iraqi Turkman and was born in Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied in the Islamic Sciences college in Mosul.[5] As of 2014, Qardash was in his mid-50s.[6]

Prior to joining ISIL, Qardash was a Major General within the army of Saddam Hussein.[1][7][8] Qardash was jailed in 2003–2004[9] by the US authorities with al-Baghdadi in Camp Bucca, a detention facility in Basra, following the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime,[10] becoming one of al-Baghdadi's closest companions.[11] 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.[12]

Qardash was earlier a religious commissar in al-Qaeda before joining the Islamic State.[13][14]

Inaccurate reports as ISIL leader

Qardash was believed by some to have assumed the position 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.[15] This claim was based on a statement in August 2019 which was attributed to ISIL's propaganda arm, the Amaq News Agency, and claimed that Qardash had been named as al-Baghdadi's successor.[16][8] Several news organizations reported the statement as an official announcement.

Analysts, however, dismissed the statement as a fabrication.[4] 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.[17] The fake statement re-emerged in October 2019 following the death of al-Baghdadi, and was reported on by several news organizations, including Newsweek.[18] A few days later, on 31 October, ISIL named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi as Baghdadi's successor.[19]

Reported death

Hisham al-Hashimi, an ISIL analyst and counter-terrorism advisor to the Iraqi government,[20] said in October 2019 that, according to Iraqi intelligence sources, Qardash had died in 2017 and his daughter was being held by Iraqi intelligence.[21] He said Qardash's death had been confirmed by both his daughter and other relatives.[22] As of 31 October, his death has not been confirmed by other sources.[4]


  1. Islamic State, The Digital Caliphate, by Abdel Bari Atwan, pg. 137
  2. "صحيفة: ضابط استخبارات صدام حسين يتولى قيادة "داعش" بأمر من البغدادي "المريض"". NBN TV (in Arabic). 22 August 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  3. Ensor, Josie (27 October 2019). "Isis faces the future without Baghdadi – one it has long planned for". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  4. "With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gone, what next for ISIL?". Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Media Network. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  5. "Abdullah Qardash: IS Successor To Al-Baghdadi? – Analysis". Eurasia Review. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  6. "هؤلاء هم قادة داعش و أمراءها..!". البوابة (in Arabic). Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  7. "Who is Abdullah Qardash? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's heir who could revive ISIS". Nandita Natrajkumar. International Business Times. 22 August 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  8. Siegel, Jordan (22 August 2019). "Ailing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi puts 'Professor' Abdullah Qardash in charge of Isis". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  9. Bureau, ABP News (2019-10-28). "Former Saddam Henchman Abdullah Qardash To Be Baghdadi's Successor: Reports". www.abplive.in. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
  10. "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Relinquishes Control of ISIS, but not the Islamic Caliphate". International Policy Digest. 23 August 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  11. "What is next for Daesh after al-Baghdadi's death?". Gulf News. Al Nisr Publishing LLC. Reuters. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  12. "هؤلاء هم قادة داعش و أمراءها..!". البوابة (in Arabic). Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  13. O'Conner, Tom; Jamali, Naveed (27 October 2019). "ISIS aready has a new leader, but Baghdadi may not have been running the group anyway". NewsWeek. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  14. "Speculation mounts of a new ISIS leader in the making". thenational.ae. 8 August 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  15. "ISIS Reportedly Names New Leader After Killing of Baghdadi and His Right-hand Man". Haaretz. October 29, 2019.
  16. "Al-Baghdadi nominates Iraqi Abdullah Qardash as his successor to lead Daesh". The Middle East Monitor. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  17. https://twitter.com/Rita_Katz/status/1173998333859381248
  18. ISIS Already Has a New Leader, But Baghdadi May Not Have been running the Group Anyway
  19. "Islamic State names its new leader". 31 October 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  20. Iraq's new war against Islamic State: Halting the group's budding rural resurgence
  21. Sorace, Stephen (29 October 2019). "Who's leading ISIS now that al-Baghdadi is dead?". Fox News. FOX. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  22. Osseiran, Hashem (28 October 2019). "With Baghdadi gone, who is heir to the 'caliph'?". CTV News. BellMedia. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
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