You may recall my insights into the challenges the leader of ISIS — Abubakr al-Baghdadi (aka the Khalifa/Caliph) — faced, trying to satisfy both the spiritual and the material needs of his flock (The Caliph Fills a Pothole; Sept 26, 2014).
He is now dead, allegedly at his own hand, by a suicide vest.
In light of my previous work, the Agency asked me to investigate the details of his demise. Working with trusted sources, I have put together a rough but, I believe, accurate transcript of those final minutes:
(Doorbell): Ring … Ring … Ring.
(Al-Baghdadi, from an inner room): Someone get that. It’s probably the postman. I ordered a new vest. Just sign for it.
(Servant): But, sir, the postman always rings twice. This was three rings.
(A-B): Don’t be a nitwit! (to himself) Why, in the name of Allah, did I include Turner Classic Movies in my TV package?! (to Servant) So, who is it? What does he look like?
(Servant, looking through the keyhole and communicating through the closed door): It is not a he, it is a they … three or four. They have your vest. They say you must sign for it. But they do not look Arab; more like Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia.”
(A-B, to himself): Again, TCM!!! But, far more serious, this could be the infidel Americans, may Allah curse them! (to Servant) Do not open the door!! It must be the Americans! Warn the rest of the household. We must escape at once!
(A-B rushes to his bedroom): Now, where did I put my old vest? I had it on for our latest escape drill. (to Second Servant): Ismail, do you remember where I put my vest?
(Ismail): I believe you left it in the tunnel once our drill was completed. You said it made more sense to have it there, ready, since that is our escape route.
(A-B): But I meant it to be washed and then returned there.
(Ismail): With respect, Khalifa, I believe I observed that to wash it would be to compromise its explosive potential.
(A-B): So, it’s still in the tunnel. Well, I’m not going out in a dirty vest. What would my followers say about a schmutzy Khalifa?
(Ismail): That he was an Israeli spy, perhaps?
(A-B): Don’t be smart with me.
(Ismail): A thousand apologies, Khalifa. But I have an idea. Why not use the vest that the visitors at the door say they are here to deliver?!
(A-B): Are you a complete ninny? They are the very ones who want me dead. Why would I accept from them a vest that was designed to kill me?
(Ismail): But, Khalifa, the vest that lies dirty in the escape tunnel is, itself, designed to kill you! It is a suicide vest!
(A-B): Yes, kill me, but in circumstances, and at a time, of my own choosing, if at all!
(Ismail): Understood, Khalifa. Ah, I have an idea! That black vest you wear when you are sentencing violators to be stoned or burned or sliced into small pieces. It is clean. And we have a large store of dynamite that was to have been used to destroy what remained of Mosul as we retreated. I could quickly fit that vest with dynamite.
(A-B): An excellent plan. Do it at once!
(Ismail packs the black vest with dynamite. Al-Baghdadi dons it. He and his family, with Ismail accompanying, climb down the ladder to the darkened basement and face the locked security door leading to the escape tunnel.)
(A-B): I will do the combination. We must be quick. I hear their footsteps above. Ismail, hand me the flashlight.
(Ismail): Oh, my Allah, I have left it behind and they are right behind us. But do not fear. I have brought matches. Yes, I have one now. Let me light it so you can s……………………
End Note: Yes, dead! But apparently not quite by his own hand. A small procedural detail with essentially the same practical result.