Isis chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Al-Afri was deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (pictured) and had been leading Isis since the leader was injured in air strikesReuters

On 13 May, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced on its website that Abu Bakr al-Afri, the acting leader of Islamic State (Isis), had been killed in coalition air strikes.

Afri, whose real name has been revealed as Abdul Rahman Mustafa Mohammed, was number two to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and had reportedly been in overall command since Baghdadi's reported injury in a US-led air strike two months ago.

Yet despite his prominence in the terror group, relatively little was known of Afri, certainly in comparison to Baghdadi. So who exactly was this hugely influential figure, who had risen so far in the ranks of the world's most notorious Islamist organisation?

Afri was known among his fellow militants as a kind, intelligent man. Previously a physics teacher, he hailed from Hadhr in Iraq, 80km away from Mosul. Reports suggest he held the love and respect of fighters within IS, so his death is a major blow to Baghdadi's group.

After joining Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1998, Afri swiftly rose through the ranks, gaining favour from significant figures including Osama bin Laden before subsequently working his way to the top of the IS leadership pyramid.

Crucial conduit

More recently, Afri was promoted by Baghdadi as his deputy after the killing of the previous deputy in an American airstrike at the end of 2014. One of his key responsibilities was providing a conduit between Baghdadi and his inner circle of advisers, and the Amirs of towns and districts falling under IS control.

When Baghdadi was severely injured during the US air strike earlier in 2015, Afri was placed in temporary charge of the group.

Hassan Al-Hassan, a Middle East political analyst, has stressed the important role that Afri was carrying out within the group, saying: "It seems that Abu Ala Al-Afri became one of the most important personalities within the organisation in the past few months, and especially after the group began to suffer tactical losses in Syria and Iraq since December last year.

"He is an extremely intelligent character who had better relations than Baghdadi, and he is a great orator with strong charisma. He has a lot of wisdom and a great leadership and management ability."

Air strikes have also targeted IS in Syria and led to the death of several prominent figures within the organisation. Those believed to have been killed in Raqqa include Osama Al-Karash, head of security in Syria; Hisham Al-Qarash, IS's medical chief; and Abu Ra'd Al-Akr, head of security responsible for moving prisoners from Raqqa to Mosul.