×

Please verify

Watch LIVE

A Jihadist's Parting Words: 'I'll See You Guys in New York

News

The leader of the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant was once an American prisoner.

Undated file picture released on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claiming to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The black-and-white picture shows a bearded man wearing a suit and tie. The group is behind most of the attacks that have been taking place in Iraq. It is also playing a more active military role alongside other predominantly Sunni rebels in the fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its members have carried out attacks against Syrians near the porous border inside Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry) AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry

The man who is now leading the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), the group so brutal that al-Qaeda has disavowed it, was once held prisoner by the United States.

Undated file picture released on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claiming to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The black-and-white picture shows a bearded man wearing a suit and tie. The group is behind most of the attacks that have been taking place in Iraq. It is also playing a more active military role alongside other predominantly Sunni rebels in the fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its members have carried out attacks against Syrians near the porous border inside Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry)

The U.S. let him go, and as he left, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi allegedly had some disturbing words for his captors: “I’ll see you guys in New York.”

Apparently, Al-Baghdadi was a low-profile prisoner until that moment.

“He was a bad dude," recalled Army Col. Kenneth King, speaking to the Daily Beast, "but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.”

King was the commanding officer of Camp Bucca, the detention camp in Iraq where Al-Baghdadi was held, and when he heard Al-Baghdadi's words back in 2009, he said he figured the man was saying he knew his captivity had essentially been a joke.

“Like, ‘This is no big thing, I’ll see you on the block,’” King told the Daily Beast, adding that Al-Baghdadi knew many of his captors at Camp Bucca were from New York.

Now, as the forces of ISIL (also know as ISIS, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq) have seized large swathes of northern Syria and Iraq and seem poised to assault Baghdad, King said he was surprised that Al-Baghdadi was heading the jihadist group.

“I’m not surprised that it was someone who spent time in Bucca but I’m a little surprised it was him,” King said, explaining that Al-Baghdadi had kept his head down while a prisoner.

Indeed, as the Daily Beast noted, Al-Baghdadi has kept an extremely low profile, eschewing the public video appearances that other Islamic extremist leaders have been fond of making and leaving international media with very few pictures of himself.

FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. The ISIL led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to have been operating from inside Syria in recent months, is the main driver of destabilizing violence in Iraq and until recently was the main al-Qaida affiliate there. Al-Qaida’s general command formally disavowed the group this week, saying it "is not responsible for its actions." (AP Photo/militant website, File) AP Photo/militant website, File

King said the fact that Al-Baghdadi was released is a source of personal frustration.

“We spent how many missions and how many soldiers were put at risk when we caught this guy (in 2005) and we just released him,” he said.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

Most recent
All Articles