Islamic State’s ‘very own Jabba the Hutt’ captured in Mosul
IRBIL, Iraq — An Iraqi SWAT team this week captured a hefty high-ranking Islamic State official who was pictured crammed into the bed of a police pickup truck after his arrest in Mosul.
The arrest of ISIS mufti Abu Abdul Bari, also known as Shifa al-Nima, was announced by the Iraqi government’s security media cell in a statement Thursday.
Bari, a preacher known for “provocative speeches against the security forces” is considered one of the top leaders of “ISIS gangs,” the statement said.
Considered by ISIS to be an authority in Quranic law, Bari issued religious rulings, or fatwas, ordering the execution of scholars and clerics who refused to pledge allegiance to the terrorist group when it occupied Mosul, the statement said. He also ordered the July 2014 destruction of a mosque built at the site believed to be the burial place of the biblical prophet Jonah, who once had a notable encounter with a whale.
The mosque was one of several cultural sites the extremist group destroyed as it swept across Syria and Iraq, claiming large swaths of territory for its self-styled caliphate. The group has been ousted from all the territory it once held but remains an insurgent threat in the region.
Memes including “He puts the fat in fatwa” spread on social media after photos were posted of Bari seated on cushions inside his apparent hideout in one image and loaded into the back of a pickup truck in another.
The images of his arrest would strike a psychological blow against ISIS, Maajid Nawaz, founder of the London-based counter-extremist organization Quilliam, wrote on Facebook.
“Gluttony is frowned upon by jihadists. But also, ISIS branded themselves as fighters possessing rare courage & discipline ... meanwhile this walrus was their top religious cleric,” he said.
Macer Gifford, a British anti-ISIS activist who fought with a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria, applauded the arrest in a Twitter post.
“I’m delighted to say that the Islamic State’s very own Jabba the [Hutt] has been captured,” he wrote, comparing the cleric to the slug-like gang lord of the Star Wars universe who lived on the desert planet Tatooine. “Good luck hanging him in Iraq.”
Iraqi officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the raid, which occurred as U.S.-led coalition forces reportedly resumed their support for government anti-ISIS operations.
Nawaz also compared Bari to Jabba the Hutt and offered a Star Wars-themed joke about the arrest.
“Today was a good day for the Force & a bad day for evil,” he wrote.