At around 21:00 on 3 July 2018, in the middle of England’s World Cup match with Colombia, news broke that a son of Islamic State’s leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), had been killed in Homs, western Syria.
The son’s name is Hudayfa al-Badri. According to the IS statement, Hudayfa was killed “in an inghimasi (storming) operation against the Nusayriyya and the Russians at the thermal power station in the Homs Wilaya”. “Nusayriyya” refers to the Alawi sect from which dictator Bashar al-Asad hails and which dominates the state structure in Syria. The thermal plant referenced here appears to be the Jandar Power Station, south of Homs city, which it is said the Russians have been working to rehabilitate. No date of death has been specified by IS.
Hudayfa was born in Samarra, Iraq, in the year 2000, according to Hisham al-Hashimi, an analyst of the IS movement and some-time advisor to the Iraqi government. Assuming this is true, it would mean Hudayfa was 17- or 18-years-old when he was killed. Hudayfa’s mother is named Asma Fawzi Muhammad al-Kubaysi, al-Hashimi reports, and Hudayfa was adopted by the caliph in 2015.
From the minimal information available, one implication is that the caliph, who was last heard from in September, and his senior lieutenants, who were expected to take shelter in the remaining shreds of the caliphate along the Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria, might be finding succour further west. IS made a fierce last stand in southern Damascus in May, and has clearly been finding space in the Badiya. These desert areas surrounding the main highways and infrastructure arteries in Asad’s heartlands in “useful Syria” provide ideal respite for IS as its post-statehood insurgent strategy evolves, allowing IS to appropriate some of the legitimacy available from assassinations and guerrilla attacks against this criminal regime.
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UPDATE: I gave some comments to the German paper BILD on the meaning of this. Naturally, they included just a portion; the full answer given was:
[While] it is difficult to draw any definitive assessment from Hudayfa al-Badri’s death[,] I am sceptical of the view that such a young man in IS’s ranks means the group is struggling; they have used child soldiers from the start and treat them as no different than adult fighters. The main message from Hudayfa’s death seems to be that IS remains active and able to attack the regime coalition, including in this area of Syria that is within its heartland, which is a powerful recruitment tool as Syrians struggle for options to resist the pro-Asad forces. There is also a message that is not only directed outward but within IS, a lead-by-example element from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.