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Oct 27th, 2019

President Trump: ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is Dead

By Maegan Vazquez, Zachary Cohen, and Kevin Liptak

October 27, 2019


President Donald Trump declared Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend. …

The President said a US special operations forces mission went after the ISIS leader and there were no US deaths during the operation. …

The death of al-Baghdadi marks the culmination of a years-long hunt to find one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the man who declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. …

Trump said al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a dead-end tunnel by dogs, taking three children with him. At the end of the tunnel, he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children. …

“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said. …

Trump told reporters al-Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks and that two to three planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched. …

[Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning that the President approved the raid “late last week” after being presented with different options. …

Esper described the death of the ISIS leader as a “devastating blow” to ISIS. “This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways,” Esper told Tapper. …

Full story

The Psychology of Terrorists (Pt. 2): The Messiah Complex

How might the personalities of bin Laden and al-Baghdadi be similar?

By Stephen A. Diamond, PhD
Psychology Today
September 26, 2014


What motivates terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed head of ISIS? … [L]ike bin Laden, al-Baghdadi seems to exhibit some sort of messiah complex. He reportedly sees himself as the successor to Muhammed, the founder of Islam. To understand better the psychology of someone like al-Baghdadi, about whom very little personal information is currently available, we might do well to look at what we knew and thought we knew about his late predecessor, Osama bin Laden. Here is a previous piece posted on the day the death of bin Laden was announced to the world by President Obama back in 2011:

Obviously, analyzing or profiling the personality of such a shadowy, enigmatic and elusive figure as Osama bin Laden is a difficult task. Nevertheless, in a paper presented at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology in 2002, Dr. Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at Minnesota’s St. John’s University, did just that.

Plugging bin Laden’s known biographical data into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), Immelman concluded that “Bin Laden’s blend of Ambitious and Dauntless personality patterns suggests the presence of Millon’s ‘unprincipled narcissist’ syndrome. This composite character complex combines the narcissist’s arrogant sense of self-worth, exploitative indifference to the welfare of others, and grandiose expectation of special recognition with the antisocial personality’s self-aggrandizement, deficient social conscience, and disregard for the rights of others.”

Elsewhere, Immelman diagnosed Osama bin Laden — as did psychiatrist Dr. Jerrold Post, the renowned CIA political profiler — a “malignant narcissist”: a term based on psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg’s conception of malignant narcissism, the core components of which are pathological narcissism, antisocial features, paranoid traits, and destructive aggression. …

Yet surprisingly, in the final analysis, Dr. Immelman found that a “major implication of the study is that bin Laden does not fit the profile of the highly conscientious, closed-minded religious fundamentalist, nor that of the religious martyr who combines these qualities with devout, self-sacrificing features; rather, it suggests that bin Laden is adept at exploiting Islamic fundamentalism in the service of his own ambition and personal dreams of glory.”

While I agree that Immelman’s diagnoses of malignant or unprincipled narcissist may be accurate, and that Osama’s behavior, at least at first, was primarily self-serving, I strongly doubt the latter part of his commentary about bin Laden not being a closed-minded religious fundamentalist or devout, self-sacrificing martyr. Indeed, from everything I’ve seen, this is exactly — even archetypally — what Osama seems to have become. A religious and political martyr.

Immelman did, however, mention Dr. Millon’s syndrome of “puritanical compulsiveness.” These individuals, writes Harvard psychologist and noted personality theorist Theodore Millon (1996), are “austere, self-righteous, [and] highly controlled.” Their “intense anger and resentment … is given sanction, at least as they see it, by virtue of their being on the side of righteousness and morality.” This resentment-based syndrome certainly closely resembles bin Laden’s messianic character.

Does al-Baghdadi suffer from some mental disorder? Could the ISIS leader, like the late Osama bin Laden, be best understood as a narcissistic personality disorder? Antisocial personality disorder? Paranoid personality disorder? Delusional psychotic? Some hybrid of each? Or is he, perhaps more crucially in this context, like bin Laden before him,what I would call a fanatically religious cult leader with a major messiah complex? (See Part 3)



I have not conducted an empirical at-a-distance- psychological assessment of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; however, based on my informal observations, Baghdadi’s psychological profile resembles Ayman al-Zawahiri (fundamentalist “abrasive negativist”) more closely than Osama Bin Laden (nonfundamentalist “unprincipled narcissist”).

Related reports on this site

Ayman al-Zawahiri Psychological Profile (May 3, 2011)

Full research report

“Bin Laden’s Brain”: The Abrasively Negativistic Personality of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri

Paper presented at the 26th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Boston, July 6–9, 2003

Osama bin Laden Psychological Profile (May 2, 2011)

Full research report

The Personality Profile of al-Qaida Leader Osama bin Laden

Paper presented at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Berlin, July 16–19, 2002

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