As the Islamic State (IS) struggles to maintain control of its strongholds in North Africa and the Levant, ongoing battles in Sirte, Aleppo and western Iraq will heavily influence IS’s trajectory moving forward. More than two years after self-styled IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi famously announced a caliphate straddling swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory equivalent in size to the United Kingdom, the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (IS’s second-in-command and chief propagandist) last month raises another important question about IS’ future: Who will replace Adnani to become Baghdadi’s new potential successor?
One of the IS figures whom Baghdadi may select is Turki al-Binali (aka Abu Sufyan Al-Silmi), a fiery cleric from Muharraq, Bahrain. Born in 1984, Binali hails from a wealthy and important Sunni family with close ties to the Al Khalifa rulers. Binali grew up privileged, having studied at the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai (until Binali’s extremist ideology led UAE authorities to deport him) before continuing his Islamic education back in Bahrain as well as in Lebanon.