What Survivors of ISIS Carnage Say About al-Baghdadi’s Death

BAGHDAD — In the Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his allies lived, there was bitterness at the news that the head of the Islamic State had died — not that it had happened, but that it had not happened sooner.

Mr. al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a nighttime raid by American Special Operations Forces in Syria early on Sunday, brought a trail of carnage into their lives through the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, destroying their homes and their cities and ultimately forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

The chaos unleashed by the Islamic State’s rise and the battles to destroy it is far from over, and the fighting, displacement and destruction are likely to disrupt people’s lives for years to come, so it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death gave the survivors little solace.

“I lost my brother because of the ISIS organization and the despicable Baghdadi,” said Mohammad Salif al-Jaddi, an employee at the electricity department in the Iraqi city of Mosul. “I hope to see the Islamic State organization totally obliterated.”

The raid was no doubt a serious blow to the Islamic State, which has been decimated by five years of fighting Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish troops working closely with the United States, though its reach has already spread beyond the region.

At the same time, there was little sense, among experts or among those who dealt with the daily specter of the Islamic State, that the death of Mr. al-Baghdadi after he was tracked down and killed at a house near Idlib, would bring an end to the group’s efforts to spread terrorism and fear.

Since the Islamic State lost the last of its territory in northeastern Syria, its cells have continued to carry out guerrilla attacks in the area. Though it is not yet clear how the group will respond after Mr. al-Baghdadi was tracked down and killed at a house near Idlib, experts said they expected the group to continue on with new leadership, a sentiment shared by those who experienced life under the Islamic State.

“I don’t think that Daesh ends by killing this person who destroyed our revolution, killed my brother and displaced us,” said Yasmin Mashaan, a refugee in Germany from Deir al-Zour, an Islamic State stronghold on the Euphrates, using another name for the group.

“I am happy when every tyrant receives such a fate, whether it is Baghdadi who killed my brother, or Bashar al-Assad, who killed my other four brothers,” she said, referring to the Syrian leader.

The violence and upheaval in Syria has many authors. But the Islamic State brought a unique form of daily terror to the territory that it sought to transform into its brutal, medieval vision of God’s rule on earth.

Though the militants brought a level of administrative order to the areas it ruled at first, its violent subjugation of the civilians living there, coupled with the battles that consumed its territory as the American-led coalition tried to destroy the group, made it all but impossible for civilians to survive the Islamic State’s rule intact.

Religious morality police patrolled the streets, beating women for not covering their faces fully, detaining and flogging men for not growing their beards long enough and beheading people for offenses as small as smoking. Mass graves discovered since the fall of the so-called caliphate bluntly testify to the mass executions that took place there.

Civilians lived under constant threat of airstrikes from the American-led coalition. Escape routes were seeded with Islamic State snipers and land mines.

For Hussam Hammoud, 27, an activist from Raqqa, the onetime capital of the Islamic State, Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death was a reminder of the suffering experienced by those who were forced to live under his uncompromising and extremist movement.

“The victims of this organization are all over the place,” said Mr. Hammoud, who said that he fled to Turkey because the Syrian Army, which was his original enemy, was now advancing toward him. “We are happy that he was killed, but we do not think our misery will end because of that.”

With Russia, Turkey, the Syrian government, American troops and Kurdish fighters all jostling for position in northeastern Syria, the onetime heart of the so-called caliphate, in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from the area, many Syrians are still suffering from the violence there.

Arin Sheikhdoms, a journalist from Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey, said there was some satisfaction in seeing Mr. al-Baghdadi killed.

“This comes as revenge for all the Syrian victims of this terrorist organization,” he said. “Unfortunately, our happiness was incomplete, as we are still mourning the martyrs we lost” after Turkey invaded the area earlier this month.

In Mosul, where the fight against the Islamic State left the old city in rubble and forced countless families to flee while leaving everything behind, there was little room for satisfaction from his death.

“He deserves a worse and more abhorrent death than this one because what he did was not a small thing at all,” said Abu Nufal Mukhtar al-Makawi, an Arabic language teacher in Mosul, who said that he was still looking for the bodies of his three sons who were taken by the Islamic State.

“His dirty fighters waged a brutal and vicious fight and ended up killed in the streets of Mosul and their bodies eaten by the dogs and their body parts are buried in the trash where they belonged,” he added, saying they had “annihilated Islam and the country and especially Mosul.”

Alissa J. Rubin reported from Baghdad, and Karam Shoumali from Berlin. Vivian Yee contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.