How ISIS hopes Adnani’s death will help them more than hurt

If the Islamic State had to lose their top spokesman and Syria commander, they’re likely thinking there’s no time like the present.

It was telling not only how ISIS’ news agency announced unprompted that Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was “martyred” during a Syria operation, but that they even had their weekly newspaper, al-Naba, ready to go with a glossy tribute.

Adnani was al-Naba’s cover boy in a previously unreleased photo ripped from a jihadist casting call portfolio: He’s intently surveying something unseen – the troops, the caliphate, the West, no matter – with his hands resolutely clasping the straps of his tactical vest. Loyal black-masked fighters stand over each shoulder, guns aloft. By the next day, ISIS fanboys online had swapped their Twitter avatars for his action-star mug and even photoshopped heavenly rays into the photo.

And using the online propaganda network of websites and social media that ISIS has used to bust virtual borders, ISIS supporters quickly distributed a 2014 biography of Adnani lauding him as “ballista of the Islamic State.” It painted a picture of a golden child of jihad who was a voracious student of the Quran and a trainer who crafted master jihadists during the era of al-Qaeda in Iraq with his signature program that “graduated a large number of students who have taken prominent positions in the Islamic State.” And, of course, it highlighted how Adnani was held for years at a U.S.-run camp in Iraq.

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