Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (1957/1959 – 25 March 2016) (Arabic: عبد الرحمن مصطفى القادولي), better known by his noms de guerre Abu Ala al-Afri (Arabic: أبو علاء العفري) and Abu Ali al-Anbari (Arabic: أبو علي الأنباري), was the governor for territories held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria. Considered the ISIL second-in-command (along with Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, his counterpart in Iraq), he was viewed as a potential successor of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
On 14 May 2014, he was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S Treasury Department, and on 5 May 2015, the U.S. Department of State announced a reward of up to US$7 million for information leading to his capture or death.
On 25 March 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense announced al-Qaduli’s death as a result of a US special forces operation conducted the previous day.
Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli used at least seven aliases, including Abu Ali al-Anbari, Abu Alaa al-Afri, Hajji Iman and al-Dar Islami. The Daily Beast reported that confusion caused by these aliases led Iraqi and American security officials to think that Abu Ali al-Anbari and Abu Ala al-Afri were separate senior ISIL leaders.
Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli is believed to have been born around 1957 or 1959 in Mosul to Turkmen family, Nineveh. He was a physics teacher in Tal Afar and a preacher. He was involved with radical Islam since the 1980s.
Al-Qaduli was believed to have travelled to Afghanistan in 1998 and trained with al-Qaeda. It was here he was said to have earned the trust and respect of Osama bin Laden.
He returned from Afghanistan following the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the Sulaymaniyah province of Iraqi Kurdistan, where he was briefly a member of Ansar al-Islam.
He pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004, joining Al-Qaida in Iraq, overseeing the sharia authorities in northern Iraq and serving as al-Zarqawi's local leader in Mosul.
In February 2006 he traveled to Pakistan on behalf of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to conduct an interview, which was then to be provided to al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
When al-Zarqawi's successors, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in a joint U.S-Iraqi raid in 2010, the Islamic State of Iraq had to choose a new successor. According to Al-Monitor, Osama bin Laden wanted al-Qaduli to become the group's new leader. Islamic State sources confirmed that Osama bin Laden appointed Abu Ali al-Anbari to lead ISI, but affirm that his instruction came too late, two weeks after a pledge had already been made to make Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the leader.
Islamic State sources affirm that he was in charge of coordinating day-to-day military operations of the Islamic State in al-Sham. He was a gifted speaker and served as a Sharii, and while he was in Raqqa, he gave a series of recording lectures (more than 40 hours) at al-Imam al-Nawawi Mosque, that summarize the Aqida of the Islamic State and break down the arguments of man-made constitutions and laws, parliaments, courts, and democratic norms like devolution of power and popular sovereignty in a coherent and unparalleled manner. One of his lectures was included in the 19th episode of the “Messages from the Land of Epic Battles” series by al-Furqan Media Foundation.
In early 2012, al-Qaduli is believed to have either escaped or have been released from prison in Iraq, after which he rejoined the Islamic State of Iraq and moved to Syria during the early days of the civil war there. During 2013, al-Qaduli sent messengers and held meetings with field commanders of various Syrian rebel groups, offering them money and weapons to switch allegiance to ISIL. Some did so publicly, defecting with men and weapons, others did so in secret, remaining affiliated with their existing groups while organizing the targeted assassinations of rivals. Memory sticks found by Iraqi security forces during a 2014 raid on the home of Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi, ISIL's military chief of staff, identified al-Qaduli, named as Abu Ali al-Anbari, as being the overall head of ISIL military and non-military operations within Syria.
Al-Qaduli is rumoured to have favoured reconciliation with al-Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, after al-Qaeda cut off ties with ISIL in early 2014. He also reportedly believed ISIL's leadership should be composed of both Arabs and foreigners, in contrast to the dominance of Iraqis in the group.
Al-Qaduli was a key coordination link between al-Baghdadi and his inner circle and his emirs in different provinces across the group's territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya. The New York Times reported in November 2015 that al-Qaduli had visited Libya, where ISIL had established a powerful branch centered in the city of Sirte.
In March 2015, it was rumoured that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIL, had suffered injuries, leaving him incapacitated. Hisham al-Hashimi wrote of al-Qaduli: "He is smart, and a good leader and administrator. If Baghdadi ends up dying, he will lead them." According to the New York Observer, al-Qaduli was described by people who knew him as being dynamic, possessing operational experience and having very good contacts. It was reported that he was a charismatic preacher. But most importantly, al-Qaduli supposedly exceled in battle strategy. That is where he made his mark both in al-Qaeda and in ISIL.
According to the Iraqi Defence Ministry, Abdulrahman Mustafa al-Qaduli was killed on 12 May 2015, in a US-led Coalition airstrike on a mosque in Tal Afar. The airstrike was reported to have dozens of other militants present. However, the video of the attack shown by the Iraqi Defence ministry was actually of a Coalition airstrike in Mosul, 40 miles away, on 4 May. The U.S. Defense Department said that it had no information to corroborate the claims, and United States Central Command stated that no mosques had been struck by Coalition aircraft. The Iraqi media again reported al-Qaduli’s death in a 12 December 2015 airstrike, but this was also disputed.
United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in a joint media briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on 25 March 2016, announced al-Qaduli's death the previous day, correcting earlier erroneous claims.
Forces commanded by JSOC arrived via helicopter to arrest al-Qaduli in eastern Syria near the Syrian-Iraqi border, while he and three other ISIL members were travelling in a vehicle coming from Raqqa. The US Special Forces ordered him to exit the vehicle. When he refused and pulled out an assault rifle instead, US forces fired at thoke vehicle, killing him and the other passengers on board. US commandos also seized electronics and other documents during the operation for intelligence purposes. On 30 April 2016, ISIL acknowledged al-Qaduli's death and launched a series of attacks across Iraq and Syria named “The Battle of Abu Ali Al Anbari” in his honour.