Documents posted online say Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a good student. (via ARD)

The certificate from Samarra High School for Boys shows a student strong in mathematics and geography.

His behavior is marked as “good,” and he has a solid 80 percent average. One may have expected that the young man had a bright future. Instead, it seems, he chose a life in which he presides over mass killings, suicide bombings and beheadings.

The document, first published online Wednesday by the German broadcaster ARD, purports to show the grades of an Iraqi known by the pseudonym Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the notorious Islamic State group. An official from Samarra's department of education, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give the information to the news media, said he had seen the original certificate and confirmed it was genuine.

Issued under the name Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim, the document tallies with the scant information known about the secretive Islamic State leader, who was born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri in 1971 in Samarra, a city about 80 miles north of Baghdad. His tribal name, Badri, is not shown.

A passport photo attached to the top of the document shows a young man with thick eyebrows who bears a striking resemblance to the extremist.

Also published by the German broadcaster following its documentary on Baghdadi were other images claiming to show the Islamic State leader and an identity document that could not be immediately verified.

The images and documents, if verified, would offer a rare glimpse into the background of Baghdadi. Before his appearance in a Mosul mosque in July, when he announced the formation of an Islamic caliphate, only one grainy image of Baghdadi had been made public.

The high school certificate shows that Baghdadi graduated in 1991, at the age of 19 or 20 – not unusual in Iraq, where students are made to repeat the year if they fail a subject. Baghdadi failed his final year once, the document shows.

Out of the six subjects he took, English language, appears to be the one he struggled with most – scoring 57 percent. A 50 percent mark is a pass.

In mathematics, he scores a near-perfect 98 percent, geography 90 percent, Arabic language 81 percent, economics 80 percent and history 75 percent.

The certificate shows that he chose to head to the Islamic law college at Baghdad University, where he is reported to have later earned a PhD.

The other identity document, a citizenship paper known as a “shahada jinsiya,” gives the same basic details – Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim, born in 1971 in Samarra. It gives the name of his parents, Awad and Alia, which the education official confirmed to be correct.

Mustafa Salim contributed to this post.

Related links:

- The atrocities of the Islamic State

The Islamic State is failing at being a state

The Islamic State and its war against history

Map: How the flow of foreign fighters has surged since October

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda splinter group that has seized a huge chunk of northern Iraq, is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a relatively unknown and enigmatic figure. (The Washington Post)