Their failure indicated to him that they were Alawites, and so, despite their pleas that they were just trying to make a living driving trucks through territory controlled by ISIS, he had them murdered. And he believed that in doing so, he was offering service to his god. In fact, his religion inspires, motivates, and guides all his actions — but that is the one factor that Western analysts and policymakers discount and gloss over when studying him and people like him.
“Iraq crisis: the bare faced ISIS executioner who spreads terror with his open killing,” by Colin Freeman, the Telegraph, June 14, 2014:
In an army full of masked, black-clad figures, he is the one man who is never shy to show his face. But for those unlucky enough to cross him, the face of Shakir Wahiyib, a feared enforcer for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, is often the last they will ever see.
The star of a series of grisly jihadist videos, including one in which three men are executed after failing his “Quranic quiz”, Wahiyib is one of the few publicly-identified leaders of the shadowy jihadist group that has swept through northern Iraq.
The movement, otherwise known as ISIS, generally instructs its followers to keep their faces masked to minimise the chances of them being tracked down by the Iraqi government. But while its commander-in-chief, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, is even said to disguise himself while meeting fellow commanders, Wahiyib has no such reservations. Showing considerable relish for his work, he grins for the lenses of jihadi cameramen he goes on the rampage with his masked underlings.
However, the endless photo ops of him posing with machine guns and interrogating terrified prisoners is not just a matter of personal vanity. Instead, it seems to be an attempt by an otherwise anonymous organisation to graft a menacing human face onto its campaign of terror – a sergeant-at-arms who is all too real, and very clearly active on the ground.
“He is the only one who kills without covering his face, and is working on declaring an Islamic state,” said Colonel Yassin Dwaij, a senior police in Iraq’s western Anbar province, where officials put a $50,000 bounty on his head. “He is dangerous and cunning.”
Thought to be aged in his late 20s, Wahiyib first gained notoriety through a chilling video which surfaced on jihadist websites last summer, showed him and his gang executing three Syrian lorry drivers who had been driving through ISIS territory in Anbar.
Having ordered the drivers to pull over at gunpoint, Wahiyib demands to know if they are Alawites, the Shia Muslim sect that ISIS is fighting in Syria. When they insist that they are Sunni Muslim like him, he quizzes them on their religious knowledge, convinced they are lying. A few minutes later, having ignored the men’s desperate pleas that they are just “trying to earn a living”, he forces them to kneel on the ground as a militiaman rakes them with machinegun fire. Comrades, meanwhile, shout “Allah Akbar” in jubilation.
Other images of Wahiyib show him parading with his fighters in the desert and rifling through Iraqi government intelligence files in the western city of Ramadi, which was captured by ISIS forces in January. In one shot, he is seen posing with what seems to be a US army issue M-4 assault rifle, in another he is holding a pet eagle. In March 2013, a video also emerged of him reading jihadist poetry on a stage at an anti-government rally organised by disaffected Sunnis in Fallujah.
Despite his high profile, relatively little is known about the exact background of Wahiyib, who is referred to as the “Desert Lion” by his supporters. However, his tribal surname – Fahdawi – suggests he is from the Anbar-based Albu Fahd tribe, known to US forces as one of the “sinister six” that first allied with al-Qaeda after Saddam Hussein’s fall.
Online jihadi forums claim he was first arrested by US forces in early 2006, and remained in jail until 2012, when ISIS organised a mass break out from a jail in Saddam’s home town of Tikrit. Some reports claim that it was while in prison that he met ISIS’s leader, al-Baghdadi….