Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, baptised the King of Clubs by the Americans, has been killed according to various news reports. The 72 year old allegedly died in the northern town of Hamreen. General Haider al-Basri, a senior regional commander in the Iraq army claimed that al-Douri and nine bodyguards were killed by gunshots while riding in a convoy outside Tikrit. The governor of the Saladin province, Raed al-Jabbouri confirmed his death, claiming he was a “mastermind of ISIS in Iraq” and that his death “was a blow to the group.”
The group he headed, the men of the Naqshbandi, have been providing critical assistance to ISIS in Iraq. It has been suggested that Izzat al-Douri encouraged Iraqi people to become more religious A report by Stanford University claims that al-Douri could have acted as commander of ISIS forces as their success in seizing Iraqi cities “was dependent on the military expertise and local connections brought by the members of the Naqshbandi.”
In 1993, al-Douri was involved in the state-sponsored Return to Faith Campaign which sought to encourage devotion to Islam in Iraqi social life. This saw aspects of Islam fused into the Iraqi media, educational system and judicial system. Then in 2013, al-Douri addressed the Sunnis saying: “The people of Iraq and all its nationalist and Islamic forces support you until the realisation of your just demands for the fall of the Safavid-Persian alliance”.
Al-Arabiya news station published a photograph which they alleged was of al-Douri’s body; DNA tests are underway to confirm the identity of the body as that of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. There have been no reports on the Naqshbandi website and the former Iraq Baathist party have released a statement denying the death of al-Douri.
Following the 2003 Iraq war and the fall of Saddam, al-Douri spent nearly a decade in hiding, with many believing him to be dead,before re-emerging as the spiritual figure head of a movement dedicated to restoring the Ba’ath Party to power. The US set a $10m bounty on him. Izzat al-Douri was one of Saddam’s most trusted aids, helping to lead his 1968 coup.
If al-Douri is indeed gone, who will be his successor? According to Ghassan Attiyah, head of the UK-based Iraqi Foundation for Development, al-Douri’s “death is no doubt a significant achievement for Baghdad. He represented one of the main figures of the Saddam regime. In a way, his demise could be an opportunity for the Baathists to reorganize themselves and elect a new leadership which is more accommodating and more willing to adopt a more moderate line.”
Below is a list of the Leadership of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order with only Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi remaining but little is known about his origins and whereabouts.
- Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi, possible 2nd in command
- Wathiq Alwan al Amiri, Media Coordinator; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009
- Abd al Majid Hadithi, Former Media Manager, Propaganda Distributor; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009
- Muhanned Muhammed Abd al Jabbar al Rawi, Media Gatherer, Producer; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009
Naqshbandi is a branch of the Sufi order, a mystical Islamic sect that touts Arab nationalism, as evidenced by its Baathist links and the Arab World-encompassing graphic on the group’s website.