From Baghdad To Minnesota, Here Are 19 Terrorist Profiles That Show What Extremism Really Looks Like

1. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

via YouTube

Group: The Islamic of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIS, ISIL, The Islamic State (Syria, Iraq)

Background: Al-Baghdadi is the caliph (religious leader) of what he’s calling The Islamic State which stretches from parts of Syria to large portions of Iraq. A Sunni Iraqi and reportedly a former cleric, Baghdadi was previously captured by U.S. forces during the occupation of Iraq. He has grand ambitions for the expansion of the Islamic State and has announced he plans to grow the organization to the point that his armies will invade Italy and the rest of Europe. Right now, ISIS has all the momentum and Baghdadi is the big dog in jihadist circles.

2. Abu Muhammad al-Lawlani

via YouTube

Group: Jabhat al-Nusra aka The Al-Nusra Front (Syria)

Background: Al-Lawlani is the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qa’ida affiliated organization tasked with overthrowing Syria’s current government led by President Bashar al-Assad. Early in 2014 he also reportedly dressed up as a woman in order to sneak through a number of Syrian checkpoints. Here’s the supposed picture.

via YouTube

3. Mohammed al-Zahawi

via the BBC

Group: Ansar al-Shariah (Libya)

Background: Zahawi has generally tried to keep a low profile although Ansar al-Shariah is the primary group accused of carrying out the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. He believes that the West has sought to impose democracy on Libya which is an interesting viewpoint considering that, before the West helped overthrow Muammar Qaddafi, Zahawi and people like him were forced into Qaddafi’s dungeons and executed for believing what they believe. He and the group are considered dangerous enough that the UAE and Egypt have both bombed Ansar al-Shariah targets in Libya.

4. Abubakar Shekau

via Wikipedia

Group: Boko Haram (Nigeria)

Background: Shekau became head of Boko Haram in 2009 when its former leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed. Despite being the leader of an Islamic extremist group, Shekau shares more in common with the loudmouthed warlords of the African continent than he does with traditional extremist leaders like Bin Laden or any of the people listed above him here. He claims to have received a traditional theological education but there’s no evidence for that. In most of his videos he talks about being invincible and crushing his enemies, standard stuff. But while he’s unimpressive as a leader he’s very impressive as a soldier. He’s continued to lead Boko Haram to victory after victory even after #bringourgirlsback got the world’s attention.

5. Abu Suleiman al-Naser

Abu Suleiman al-Nasser

Group: The Islamic of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIS, ISIL, The Islamic State (Syria, Iraq)

Background: Nasser is the War Minister of ISIS and there’s not just a lot known about him. He’s been in the position of War Minister for four years which means he directs the groups operations much like a general would. His alias, “Al Nasir Li Din Allah,” means “The Victor for the Religion of God.” It’s not at all uncommon for these kinds of groups to have prominent leaders with the other commanders being somewhat more hidden given how short their lifespans might be otherwise.

6. Abu Talha Al Almani

via Twitter

Group: The Islamic of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIS, ISIL, The Islamic State (Syria, Iraq)

Background: Almani has one of the stranger backgrounds. He’s a German and former rapper who went by the name Deso Dogg. Currently, he produces and releases a lot of recruitment videos through ISIS’s media arm, the Al Hayat Media Center. This is him on the second from the left. He tweets from @AbuMamadou.

And here’s one of Al Hayat’s videos. Very sharp, very sophisticated.

Here’s Almani as Deso Dogg, according to urban dictionary this name might basically mean “sober dogg.”

Deso Dogg by foto di matti

7.  Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari

Group: The Islamic of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIS, ISIL, The Islamic State (Lebanon)

Background: A Lebanese national unheard of until January of this year, Ansari made himself known in January of this year when he announced that he and his fighters would be joining ISIL and swearing bay’ah (allegiance) to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Ansari has said that he will “open the gates of Jerusalem” for ISIS by attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon and taking over the country. Considering that Hezbollah’s most recent conflict involved fighting the Israeli Army to a standstill, Ansari’s got his work cut out for him.

I can find no photo of this man, copyrighted or otherwise.

8. Ahmed Abdi Godane

via Youtube. That’s Godane on the right.

Group: Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, more often simply called Al-Shabaab (Somalia)

Background: Godane, who goes by a half dozen different names, is the Emir and leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia. Al-Shabaab, meaning “the Youth”, is an Islamist group that had previously taken over the large swaths of Somalia and instituted Sharia Law. As a youth himself, he was a smart kid who excelled at his studies and received scholarships to study the Quran in both Pakistan and the Sudan. He also fought in the most recent war in Afghanistan and received training there. Al-Shabaab is far less powerful now than they were just six years ago but they still dominate in many of Somalia’s more rural areas where Somali forces cannot go. However, prior to being rolled back, the group practically starved the entire country. Al-Shabaab remains aligned with al-Qa’ida.

Update: Godane was reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike last week.

9. Ayman al-Zawahiri

via YouTube

Group: Al-Qa’ida, founding member

Background: Zawahiri is the leader of al-Qa’ida. He had previously been second in command for years until Bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan in 2011. Zawahiri is Egyptian and, compared to the rest of the people on this list, is old (63). As a boy (14yo) he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was considered an activist as a young man. As the Emir of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, it wasn’t until 1998 that he merged his group with Bin Laden’s to form what we know of as al-Qa’ida. According to many, Zawahiri has always been the real brains behind al-Qa’ida while Bin Laden was the money. Al-Qa’ida provides support for the al-Nusra front and other groups but ISIS has proven to be too extreme in their actions against fellow Sunni Muslims for al-Qa’ida’s taste. No one really knows where Zawahiri is.

Here’s Zawahiri in a Cairo court room as a young man.

via YouTube

10. Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid

via Wikipedia

Group: The Taliban (Pakistan, Afghanistan)

Background: A native Afghan and member of the Afghan mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation, Omar is better known internationally as simply Mullah Omar. The above photo is old. It is also the most recent photo I could find. Omar is the Supreme Leader of the Taliban. His former state title was Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan but with the 2001 U.S. invasion he is no longer a recognized head of state. The U.S. has been searching for him since then and by all accounts the man is nearly a ghost. Many believe he’s protected not only Afghan and Pakistani extremists but by the Pakistani Intelligence apparatus (ISI). He’s also very smart. Contrary to what ISIS is now doing, taking and holding cities and towns in Syria and Iraq, Omar scattered the Taliban to the wind once the U.S. invasion was in full swing reportedly saying “defending the cities with front lines that can be targeted from the air will cause us terrible loss.”

11. Abu Omar al-Shishani

via YouTube

Group: ISIS (Syria, Iraq)

Background: An ethnic Georgian of only 27 years, Shishani is the son of an Orthodox Christian father and a Muslim mother. He is believed to possibly be ISIS’s current military chief since the former chief was killed in June. Shishani was radicalized while in a Georgian prison in 2012. Soon after his release he left the country for Syria where he linked up with Chechen extremists. By June 2012 he was leading a group of foreign fighters into combat in Syria.

12. Douglas McAuthur McCain

via Twitter

Group: ISIS (Syria)

Background: An American, the 33-year-old McCain was killed while fighting in Aleppo, Syria. He used to go by the name Duale Mahoney on Facebook where he still has 844 friends. He was a Muslim convert and spent time in Minnesota but lived in Chicago.

13. Abdirahmaan Muhumed

via FoxNews

Group: ISIS (Syria)

Background: Another American, the 29-year-old Somali American was the father of nine children and was also from Minnesota. He was also killed while fighting with ISIS in Syria. He had previously worked as a cleaner at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where he reportedly had access to the “tarmac and planes.”

14. Reyaad Khan

via YouTube Khan is seen in the middle

Group: ISIS (Iraq)

Background: Khan, a British national, was only 20 years old when he left Cardiff, Wales to go fight jihad in Iraq with ISIS as a foot soldier. He tweets from the handle @abudujana47. He was previously photographed with Nasser Muthana feeding the Cardiff poor last year. Here is a video of his mother begging him to come home. Her video was filmed completely in shadow to protect her identity. Below is a recent tweet. He also brags about decapitations.

15. Nasser Muthana and Aseel Muthana

via YouTube Nasser Muthana is seen in the middle

Group: ISIS (Iraq)

Background: The above picture is of Nasser Muthana and Reyaad Khan together, presumably in Iraq. Nasser is another foot soldier for ISIS. He’s 20 years old. The below tweet contains another photo of Nasser and Reyaad together when they fed the homeless together in Cardiff. The still photos for both Nasser and Reyaad’s entries are from an extremist recruiting video they appeared in together.

16. Aseel Muthana

Group: ISIS (Iraq)

Background: Above is the only reliable (verified) picture of Aseel that I’ve been able to find. Aseel is also a British national and the 17-year-old younger brother of Nasser (pictured above). He too traveled to Iraq to join ISIS as a foot soldier in jihad. His father has since posted a video begging both of them to return home. His video was filmed from only the waist down to protect his identity.

17. Abu Huraira al-Amriki

via YouTube

Group: Jabhat al-Nusrah (Syria)

Background: His real name is Moner Mohammad AbuSalha but the South Florida native went by Abu Huraira al-Amriki once he joined up with Jabhat al-Nusrah in Syria. He was a Palestinian American and, in July, he became the first known American suicide bomber in jihadist history. A video was even made of the truck being filled with explosives, Amriki driving off towards the target, and the final explosion. It is not a graphic video. Below is another video of him talking about how he came to Syria.

18. Abu Sha’ib al-Somali

via YouTube

Group: ISIS (Iraq)

Background: Al-Somali is a Finnish citizen however he’s also the son of Somaliland’s political opposition Chairman meaning he’s the son of a very prominent man. He’s reportedly the first extremist from Somalia to join ISIS, most join al-Shabaab. In a strange kind of reversal, al-Somali was radicalized while in Finland. His parents found this out after he visited them with his wife and they discovered he was carrying two passports which they confiscated. He left for Iraq without them.

19. Abu Abdullah al-Habashi


Group: ISIS (Syria, Iraq)

Background: 20 years old and a British citizen, al-Habashi left the UK for the Middle East circa 10 months ago where he joined with ISIS in fighting Syrian forces led by President Bashar al-Assad. Like other young jihadis on this list, his parents have begged him to return home. He’s also suspected of being the man who killed James Foley.

Al-Habashi says his family know where he is and have told him: ‘Come back – you are crazy’.

He has told them: ‘This is for the sake of Allah. I’m free. Why would I come back to (go to) prison?’ Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – YouTube

Keep up with James B. on Twitter

More From Thought Catalog