Who Runs the Islamic State?

October 28, 2014
/
by Sarah Childress Senior Digital Reporter, FRONTLINE Enterprise Journalism Group

ISIS is unlike any other terrorist group in recent memory. It has to keep hidden while also running a state. That’s created a clandestine group of leaders anxious to protect themselves from rivals — and airstrikes — but who also must engage in the mundane business of governance. They order executions and craft military campaigns, but also issue traffic tickets, regulate the price of foodstuffs and consider whether cigarettes and motorbike racing are acceptable to their brand of Islam. (They are not.)

Who these men are remains mostly a mystery. The Soufan Group, a security intelligence firm, has been tracking information from ISIS publications, information from defectors and others to piece together the clearest possible picture of the top leaders in ISIS. FRONTLINE collaborated with them to create this graphic, showing what’s known about where they’re from and what role they play in their newly established caliphate.

Some patterns have emerged. Almost all of the Islamic State’s most influential figures are Iraqi; many of them were once Saddam loyalists and several had been detained by the U.S. military in Camp Bucca in Iraq.

Explore more in our interactive below.



In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Support Provided By